The start of Paris Fashion week on Tuesday was overshadowed by a row over the “sadistic”, “cruel” and alleged “discriminatory” treatment of models.
James Scully, a US casting director, blew the lid on the scandal in an Instagram post in which he branded the treatment of models at fashion house Balenciaga as “sadistic and cruel”.
Scully said 150 women were forced to wait in a cramped stairwell for three hours at the casting for anupcoming show on Sunday. Some of the models were even shut in the dark while casting directors went off to lunch.
“Not only was this sadistic and cruel, it was dangerous, and left more than a few of the girls I spoke with traumatised,” he said.
The French fashion house promptly issued a statement saying it had sacked the casting agency in question amid the outcry. The label, one of the biggest names in the fashion world, also said it had sent a written letter of apology to the women.
Scully claimed the casting directors involved were “serial abusers”. He also accused a major Paris fashion house, which he did not name, of trying to “sneak in” 15-year-old models for its show.
‘No regard for human decency’
“It’s inconceivable to me that people have no regard for human decency or the lives and feelings of these girls, especially when too, too many of these models are under the age of 18 and clearly not equipped to be here,” he said.
Balenciaga confirmed to AFP that it was “making radical changes to the casting process” after the incident, “including discontinuing the relationship with the current casting agency”.
“Balenciaga took notice of issues with the model castings carried out on that day (February 26). The house reacted immediately,” it said in a statement.
“Balenciaga condemns this incident and will continue to be deeply committed to ensure the most respectful working conditions for the models.”
The fashion house has become the hottest ticket on the Paris catwalk since Georgian wunderkind Demna Gvasalia took the helm last year.
Helena Christensen, Joan Smalls and Hilary Rhoda were among the supermodels to thank Scully for drawing the world’s attention to the incident.
Discrimination at Lanvin?
Scully also accused the French label Lanvin of discriminating against black models.
“I have heard from several agents, some of whom are black, that they have received [a] mandate from Lanvin that they do not want to be presented with women of colour,” he wrote.
But the brand’s designer, Bouchra Jarrar, hit back strongly after showing her autumn-winter collection on Wednesday.
“They insult the couture houses with their accusations of racism,” she told AFP. “What are they talking about?” asked the French designer, whose family comes from Morocco.
“Our dressing room is full of girls from every origin. In fact, there is not a single French person in it.”
Two black models walked in her show, the same number as in her debut collection last year for the label, which is owned by Taiwanese businesswoman Shaw-Lan Wang.