Last December, Business of Fashion held the “Voices” lecture series featuring some of the most important figures in fashion. One particular speech that garnered viral attention was casting director James Scully’s emotional dissection of the modeling industry. Drawing from both personal experience and what he had been told by those he has worked with over the years, Scully outlined how the industry has changed to treat models in an increasingly disposable and inhumane manner. What was particularly affecting (and somewhat disturbing) was that he did not speak in general terms—Scully referred to specific events, and warned the parties involved that if they did not change their behavior in the upcoming casting season, he would name them publicly.
This season Scully felt the need to make good on his promise.
“I'm disappointed to come to Paris and hear that the usual suspects are up to the same tricks,” he wrote on Instagram yesterday, detailing an incident at a casting for Balenciaga where more than 150 models were made to wait for hours in a darkened stairwell while casting directors Maida Gregori Boina and Rami Fernandes (who he calls “serial abusers") went out to lunch.
Maida and Rami (as they are colloquially known) have been criticized in the past for the lack of diversity in their casting choices at notable shows such as Calvin Klein, Jil Sander, and Dior—all houses previously flagged for "white-washing" their runway ranks—but their abuse of power in regards to the treatment of models opens up yet another equally heinous can of worms.
But Scully didn’t stop with the duo. He also called out Lanvin for not even wanting to see models of color, and an unnamed house that is attempting to hire underage models. “Please keep sharing your stories with me and I will continue to share them for you,” he promised at the end of his message, adding "#watchthisspace".
So true to my promise at #bofvoices that I would be a voice for any models, agents or all who see things wrong with this business I'm disappointed to come to Paris and hear that the usual suspects are up to the same tricks. 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 traumatized. 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. Balenciaga part of Kering it is a public company and these houses need to know what the people they hire are doing on their behalf before a well deserved law suit comes their way. 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. And another big house is trying to sneak 15 year olds into paris! 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 but god forbid well sacrifice anything or anyone for an exclusive right? If this behavior continues it's gonna be a long cold week in paris. 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
Since the time of his posting, the fashion world has been supportive of Scully’s honesty. Major models such as Ali Michael and Joan Smalls have posted comments of support, and model Dilone has reposted his comment on her page. Meanwhile, Carolyn Murphy commented about her disappointment, and Helena Christensen encouraged models to keep sharing and for Scully to continue to raise awareness.
What is most admirable about Scully’s attitude toward abuse in the modeling industry is not only that he is giving a voice to those who feel unable to speak out because of fear of retribution, but also that he shows no sign of stopping. “Every time I see these stories I want to speak more. The door is now open [sic] nobody is safe anymore,” Scully posted in response to a model who claimed to be one of the ones at the Balenciaga casting.
The French house has since responded, saying that it “reacted immediately, making radical changes to the casting process, including discontinuing the relationship with the current casting agency.” Balenciaga, which apparently also sent apology letters to modeling agencies to be shared with the models, added, “Balenciaga condemns this incident and will continue to be deeply committed to ensure the most respectful working conditions for the models.”
As of yet, neither Maida nor Rami have responded to Scully’s claims. Lanvin has remained mum as well. What matters now is not only that those with more power in the industry continue to speak out against this behavior, but that all involved are questioned about it as Paris fashion week continues.