Balenciaga reacted swiftly today to claims by U.S. casting director James Scully that models were being abused during castings for Paris Fashion Week. Scully made the allegations in an Instagram post, which set off a firestorm on Tuesday that had everyone from LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s Antoine Arnault to model Joan Smalls chiming in.
“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,” said Scully in the lengthy social media posting. “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 Hermès and Elie Saab who they also cast for because they refuse to be treated like animals.”
Scully’s post also accused several houses of trying to “sneak in” underage models, and specifically accuses Lanvin of a mandate “that they do not want to be presented with women of color.”
Lanvin spokeswoman Sophie Boilley said: “These allegations are completely false and baseless.” Balenciaga, on the other hand, confirmed there were issues with its casting process and said it immediately took actions to correct them.
“On Sunday, February 26th 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,” the brand said in a statement.
François-Henri Pinault, chairman and chief executive officer of Kering, which owns Balenciaga, has long stated his commitment to promote a socially, ethically, economically and environmentally sustainable business. He is chairman of the Kering Foundation, which was launched in 2009 to combat violence against women.
Kering was recognized as one of the top 25 most diverse and inclusive publicly listed companies globally, according to the Thomson Reuters Diversity & Inclusion Index published in September. It has also been awarded the Gender Equality European & International Standard label.
Arnault, son of luxury titan Bernard Arnault, also chimed into the controversy, posting a message on Scully’s Instagram account: “If you hear of anything like this happening at our houses, please contact me directly.” Arnault, whose companion is model Natalia Vodianova, also tagged the Berluti Instagram handle. Arnault is chief executive officer of Berluti and chairman of Loro Piana.
Others posting messages of support for Scully’s post included Joan Smalls, Kate Young, Helena Christensen, Carolyn Murphy, Julia Stegner, Alana Zimmer, Andrea Lieberman, Hilary Rhoda, George Cortina, Marion Hume and Robert Burke.