LONDON — Eden Loweth, the designer behind emerging label Art School, has apologized after their alleged exploitative behaviors were exposed by casting director Lucia Blayke in a series of Instagram posts this week.
Blayke, who cast the brand’s fall 2021 fashion show, accused Loweth, who uses the pronouns “they” and “them,” of not paying staff members and models months after the show.
“Myself, other staff and the majority of models have still not been paid six months after the show. Those who have been paid have only been paid after threatening the creative director, Eden Loweth, with public call-outs. People shouldn’t have to resort to these kinds of unpleasant interactions just to be paid for their work and to be treated with respect,” she said.
The casting director, who is in the process of raising money for her final gender-affirmation surgeries, also said that every time she asked about payment, she was told that Loweth has been diagnosed with a serious disease affecting their lifespan, and that they had been hospitalized which is why they could not make the payments.
“I was stuck in between my terminally ill employer and 45 people from the queer community that I have known and respected for years. Eventually, it got to a point where I told Eden that I would come into the studio and do whatever needs to be done to get people paid if they are too ill to do so. I was let go as casting director and told that they already have a replacement for next season,” she added.
“I told Eden several times that I was struggling financially and needed to be paid, and that this whole situation reflected badly on my reputation as a community figure, and they simply did not care,” she said.
Since the publication of Blayke’s Instagram post on Tuesday, several members of the LGBTQ community who walked for the Art School show earlier this year supported Blayke’s demand to pay everyone and to issue a public apology.
Drag queen A’Whora, who made a surprise cameo alongside RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K. contestant Bimini Bon Boulash at the Art School fall 2021 show, said on Instagram: “Thank you for all your hard work! We are in this together.”
A’Whora later elaborated her opinion on Twitter saying “It’s so important to raise awareness of fee and funding for our queer community this month. PAY YOUR PRIDE!”
In a separate Instagram post published Thursday, Blayke gathered more allegations against Loweth, ranging from abusive behavior toward an in-house seamstress to not casting an Asian model because “he looked too much like a sushi chef.”
Model Tyler With Rosacea, who has walked for the brand several seasons, said on Instagram: “I chased almost bi-weekly on when I could expect the money. I’d often receive an excuse of there being a payment rollout with staggered payment.”
Artist Adam Allwood, who walked for the fall 2021 show, said on Instagram: “having to chase Eden to be paid relentlessly was tiring. The replies back were excuses and lies on a loop. I felt as though the entire cast was being taken advantage of, and when that includes your friends and queer people making ends meet then it stings even more.”
Another model who walked in the brand’s spring 2021 show and who spoke to WWD on condition of anonymity said it took him a long time to be paid after his agency chased the fees for months.
“I believe everything that is being said against them and the brand,” the model added.
In a statement sent to WWD, Loweth said they and Art School “take full responsibility for the unacceptable delays in payment to suppliers, contractors, and members of the community, and are working tirelessly to resolve these issues as quickly as possible. That the financial challenges for my own business over the past year have adversely affected people and caused so much struggle and upset should never have happened, and I take responsibility to anyone for whom this has been the case.
“My priority right now is the resolution of outstanding financial obligations as I know how desperately these payments are needed. For anyone who has been hurt by, or felt unheard through my actions — I am deeply sorry,” they said.
Loweth added this has been a steep learning curve and lesson, and they hope that other young business owners will not make the same mistake as they did.
At the same time, the designer blasted those who tried to use the opportunity to discredit them and Art School’s integrity and character.
“I have been painted in a way which is simply untrue through snapshots of interactions taken out of context, fabricated, and the sharing of details deeply personal and intimate to myself,” they said.
“Parts of my community have embarked on a campaign against one of their own and attempted to jeopardize the integrity of an ally who, since founding Art School five years ago, has relentlessly advocated for representation and change.”
Loweth added: “My initial reaction was to not respond whilst I addressed the issues of outstanding payments, however, the allegations made since have become increasingly inflammatory and therefore have forced me to respond.
“It was my hope that the issue of payment, for which I accept full responsibility, could have been resolved amongst ourselves and without the need to discuss the financial position of Art School publicly which has potentially damaging effects for both the business and the platform we have created together in it.”