Casting Director James Scully Reminds Us Modeling Can Still Be Inhumane

Photo: Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images.
The fashion industry has been historically plagued with rumors of its unfair treatment of models. Last December, casting director James Scully, who works with Stella McCartney, Brandon Maxwell, and Tom Ford, among others, participated in a discussion for Business of Fashion's #bofvoices, where he told the crowd: "[The fashion industry is] so much more sadistic and so much more mean than you can believe." Unfortunately, it seems that his comments have quickly been proven: On Tuesday, Scully took to Instagram to express his dismay over the experiences certain models at Paris Fashion Week castings had, and Fashionista first reported on it.

"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," he wrote, noting that the brand's casting directors are notorious repeat-offenders. "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."

A post shared by james scully (@jamespscully) on

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In addition to Balenciaga, Scully writes that Hermès and Elie Saab are responsible for treating models "like animals," and that he has "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." This claim is, of course, ironic, considering the brand's creative director, Bouchra Jarrar, is a woman of color.

Balenciaga, however, responded to Scully's post. In a statement to Refinery29, the company said: "On Sunday, February 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." Refinery29 has also reached out to the other brands whom Scully called out in his post for comment.

Scully's caption has, of course, been met with applause. Leomie Anderson, a model who has long advocated for her colleagues of color and called out the industry for discriminatory practices, commented: "Means so much to have someone in the industry such as yourself speak up against the mistreatment of models." Joan Smalls replied: "Preach. Also you should be casting more just to bring more justice and equality to this industry. Hilary Rhoda, too, responded: "Love you James! You have ALWAYS done the right thing and that always stuck out in my mind about you. You've always been so kind, loving, respectful, and inclusive ❤ so thank you for that."

He continued: "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."

Why the industry treats models more as commodities than human beings remains baffling to all who work in and out of the fashion world. The unethical treatment of models is ironic, for without them, there would be no one to photograph and no one to dress (that is, if high-fashion brands stay committed to their unwavering pension for sticking to casting tall, thin, white women). But, as Scully writes, something needs to be done — now.
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