The plot thickens in the latest scandal to rock the fashion world: The models versus the people who cast them. On Tuesday, casting director James Scully posted an Instagram in which he called out the unethical casting conditions ahead of Paris Fashion Week. At the Balenciaga go-see, casting directors Maida Gregori Boina and Rami Fernandes reportedly left 150 models waiting in a dark stairwell while the two went to lunch.
The French fashion house issued a statement to Refinery29, explaining they were terminating their relationship with the casting duo, and sending written apologies to the agencies of the models who were affected. But now, Boina and Fernandes are firing back with their side of the story. In an exclusive statement to Business of Fashion, Boina claims the models didn’t even wait one hour in the stairwell, nor were they treated poorly.
“We personally ate our lunch in the casting facility and — without question — we did not lock the models in the stairwell and turn out the lights," Boina told BOF via e-mail. "That would be completely inhumane. Throughout the entire process, we provided the most comfortable accommodations allowable based on the facilities provided." She claimed the pair saw approximately 150 models for the show’s 57 slots, which meant eight models were seen at a time to streamline the process. Allegedly, the building’s electricity went out for “a period of time,” which caused the models to wait on a staircase as the reception area of Balenciaga’s headquarters was “unavailable.”
But, Scully is sticking to his side of the story, and provided more insight to BoF on the duo’s mal practices. "What Maida and Rami did, they have been doing for a long time," he said. "They are the king and queen of abuse. I’ve heard stories from girls who were left waiting for so long without food or water that they ordered a pizza, and Maida came out and started shouting at them and calling them pigs." Several models aren’t letting their own bad experiences go unheard, either.
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
In multiple comments on Scully’s original post, models like Judith Schiltz and Mollie Gondi, among others, confirmed their negative experiences with the casting directors. Schiltz, who was at the Balenciaga casting, confirmed she in fact did wait for three hours in the stairwell. Gondi shared a similar occurrence. “Maida would request me season after season to do the exact same thing. Lock me in a room for 3 hours while everyone panicked, only to never, ever book me,” Gondi wrote in her comment. “The apology to the agencies from the fashion house is laughable because the agents have known this for years and don’t think twice because they want their girl in the show.”
Scully also called out Lanvin’s alleged mandate to model agents to keep any non-white models at home. While a Lanvin spokesperson told BoF the allegations were “completely untrue,” it’d seem the rumors were warranted when Lanvin’s show on Wednesday only saw two women of color walk the runway, one being Joan Smalls. Just a couple of seasons ago, Balenciaga was the target of Scully's activism, when the fact that creative director Demna Gvasalia used just one model of color out of the 206 models he'd casted for his five seasons at Vetements and Balenciaga came to light. Despite all of this, Scully believes change is possible, but the industry has to get rid of its ego before it can move on.