News & Runway

Balenciaga Fires Casting Agency and Issues Apology to Models in the Wake of Instagram Shaming

Balenciaga Spring 2017 finale

Balenciaga’s Spring 2017 finale; Image: Imaxtree

Not all heroes wear capes. Yesterday, casting director James Scully, longtime champion of diversity and models’ rights, shared an Instagram post criticizing the actions of Balenciaga casting agents Maida Gregori Boina and Rami Fernandes. Scully reported that “a number of girls” had told him the same story: that Boina and Fernandes made models wait three hours in a dark stairwell while they took their lunch, instructing them not to move, or else they wouldn’t be considered for the brand’s upcoming Paris Fashion Week show. “Not only was this sadistic and cruel, it was dangerous and left more than a few of the girls I spoke with traumatized,” he wrote.

Balenciaga’s reaction was swift. The day after Scully’s post made its internet rounds (Isabella Emmack, Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin and more re-posted), the brand issued an official statement distancing itself from Boina and Fernandes. It read as follows:

“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.”

Also implicated in Scully’s Instagram post was Lanvin. “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,” wrote Scully. Lanvin spokesperson Sophie Boilley dismissed Scully’s allegations as “completely false and baseless.” Scully accused a third, unnamed fashion house of attempting to “sneak 15-year-olds into Paris.” Thus far the anonymous “big house” has not come forward. (Nor do we expect it to — 15-year-olds are, by law, banned from the catwalk.)

In a follow-up interview with the Cut, Scully referred to himself as “the most loved and hated man in this city right now.” On top of losing their Balenciaga account, we doubt Boina and Fernandes will be hearing from former client Elie Saab anytime soon: “Elie Saab takes the health and well-being of models seriously. Elie Saab is and always has been a brand that respects and supports women,” a rep for the brand told the Cut. Additionally, Antoine Arnault, son of LVMH Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bernard Arnault, took it upon himself to comment on Scully’s post. “If you hear of anything like this happening at our houses, please contact me directly,” Arnault wrote.

We’re happy to see models’ voices (finally) being heard. Bravo, Scully.

[ via WWD ]

Update March 2, 2017: In an exclusive statement given to Business of Fashion, Boina disputes Scully’s account, which she called “inaccurate and libelous.” Her statement, in part, says, “To directly address these accusations, the models did not wait for 3 hours in the dark, not even one hour. 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. That would be completely inhumane. Throughout the entire process, we provided the most comfortable accommodations allowable based on the facilities provided.” Read the rest of Boina’s statement here.