Back in December, top casting director James Scully -- who does casting for Stella McCartney and Tom Ford -- told fashion industry figures at the BoF Voices conference, "I work in a business I no longer recognise," highlighting the poor treatment of models in general, and racial discrimination in particular. In a bold Instagram post last night, Scully wrote that he was staying true to his promise that he would "be a voice for any models, agents or all who see things wrong with this business," before detailing reports of the 'sadistic and cruel' treatment of models at casting appointments in Paris this season.
"I'm disappointed to come to Paris and hear that the usual suspects are up to the same tricks," Scully writes. "I was very disturbed to hear from a number of girls this morning that yesterday at the Balenciaga casting Madia & Ramy (serial abusers) held a casting in which they made over 150 girls wait in a stairwell told them they would have to stay over 3 hours to be seen and not to leave. In their usual fashion they shut the door went to lunch and turned off the lights, to the stairs leaving every girl with only the lights of their phones to see. Not only was this sadistic and cruel it was dangerous and left more than a few of the girls I spoke with traumatised. Most of the girls have asked to have their options for Balenciaga cancelled as well as Hermes and Ellie Saab who they also cast for because they refuse to be treated like animals."
Scully has long been a champion of diversity in fashion, and adds that the racism the industry has been trying to overcome is sadly alive and well. "On top of that I have heard from several agents, some of whom are black, that they have received mandate from Lanvin that they do not want to be presented with women of color," he continues, adding, "And another big house is trying to sneak 15 year olds into Paris!" -- the minimum catwalk age is 16.
"It's inconceivable to me that people have no regard for human decency or the lives and feelings of these girls, especially when too many of these models are under the age of 18 and clearly not equipped to be here," he says, noting wryly, "but god forbid [we'll] sacrifice anything or anyone for an exclusive right? If this behavior continues it's gonna be a long cold week in Paris".
In an industry where we all know these terrible things go on, but that models are rarely empowered to speak out for fear of making powerful enemies and losing jobs, it is important that respected figures such as James use their power and platform, leveraging the privilege they have, to speak out on these issues. He concludes his post by writing, "Please keep sharing your stories with me and I will continue to to share them for you. It seems to be the only way we can force change and give the power back to you models and agents where it rightfully belongs. And I encourage any and all to share this post #watchthisspace".
Props to you, James Scully. Let all of us in the industry take courage from James taking a stand and consider how we can use our privilege, however small or large, to make the industry a safer, more caring and inclusive place for everyone.
i-D have reached out Balenciaga and Lanvin for their comments on this story, and are awaiting replies.
Editor's Note: Following publication of this article, Balenciaga shared the below statement regarding the casting.
"On Sunday, February 26th Balenciaga took notice of issues with the model castings carried out on that day. The House reacted immediately, making radical changes to the casting process, including discontinuing the relationship with the current casting agency.
Additionally, Balenciaga sent a written apology to the agencies of the models who were affected by this specific situation, asking them to share it with them.
Balenciaga condemns this incident and will continue to be deeply committed to ensure the most respectful working conditions for the models."
Text Charlotte Gush