Balenciaga Severs Relationship With Casting Directors After Allegations of Model Mistreatment

Balenciaga SS17 - Getty - H 2017
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More than 150 models were allegedly held in a dark stairwell for hours, according to prominent casting director James Scully.

Balenciaga has taken action against its casting directors after allegations of model cruelty surfaced.

The French fashion house, which will present its fall 2017 collection in Paris this Sunday, came under fire last Sunday after James Scully, a prominent casting director who has worked with big name designers including Tom Ford, Stella McCartney, Carolina Herrera and more, posted a lengthy Instagram caption in which he claimed that multiple models had reported to him that Balenciaga's casting directors (Maida Gregori Boina and Rami Fernandes) had locked more than 150 models in a stairwell for hours at a time during the casting for their show. 

"I'm disappointed to come to Paris and hear that the usual suspects are up to the same tricks," Scully wrote of Boina and Fernandes, who also cast Hermes' and Elie Saab's shows. "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." 


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In response to Scully's accusations, Balenciaga issued the following statement to The Hollywood Reporter, acknowledging that they had severed ties with Boina and Fernandes: "On Sunday, Feb. 26, 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."

In addition to the issues at Balenciaga, Scully also described foul play at Lanvin, where several agents reported to him that the fashion house had asked not to be presented with models of color. The fashion house, which showed creative director Bouchra Jarrar's sophomore collection on Wednesday afternoon, featured less than five non-white models. However, in a statement to WWD, a spokeswoman for Lanvin denied Scully's allegations, calling them "false and baseless."

He adds that other agencies were attempting to sneak 15-year-old models into the castings, which could violate France's labor laws. (Models under age 16 are restricted to a limited number of working hours in France, which is why many agencies refuse to hire them altogether.)

Paris, still considered to be the most prestigious of the fashion capitals with regards to models' careers, has faced issues concerning the well-being of models in the past. In 2015, the country passed a law requiring models to present a doctor's note which verified a healthy BMI before being allowed to work, citing the ultra-competitive atmosphere as a threat to models' health.