Claims of Model Abuse and Racist Casting Roil Fashion Week
Mr. Scully’s post has since been liked on Instagram nearly 9,000 times. Several models have commented on the post, promising to share their horror stories, and one, Judith Schiltz, did, saying she had walked out of the Balenciaga casting. The top models Joan Smalls, Candice Swanepoel, Hilary Rhoda and Helena Christensen all expressed their support for Mr. Scully. “Thank you James speak that TRUTH!!!” Jourdan Dunn wrote.
Both Ms. Boina and the house of Lanvin denied Mr. Scully’s claims in the strongest possible language. In a statement, Ms. Boina called the allegations “inaccurate and libelous.” She wrote that “we provided the most comfortable accommodations allowable based on the facilities provided,” and that an electricity failure at Balenciaga had been to blame. (A Balenciaga executive confirmed this detail to the Business of Fashion website, which also ran Mr. Scully’s and Ms. Boina’s statements.)
Though Mr. Scully’s post did not directly suggest that Ms. Boina’s casting choices have underrepresented women of color, she added, “As a woman of color, I am a major advocate for ethnic diversity in the industry.”
Ms. Boina has not received much public support, but Patrick Scallon, communications director for Dries Van Noten in Paris, has known her for over 20 years. He acknowledged she can be gruff, but he commended her contributions to the industry, both in casting and as an artistic director of the Festival de Hyères, the fashion and photography festival held annually in the South of France. “I’ve seen her passion,” he said. “But I’ve never seen an ounce of cruelty.”
The issue of diversity on the runways is a separate one. While the runways in New York have recently begun to feature more women of color it is a shift that has been slower to take hold in Europe.
Sophie Boilley, a spokeswoman for Lanvin, called Mr. Scully’s allegations “completely false and baseless.” But it was hard not to notice, and indeed several critics did, that only two black women, and precious few nonwhite women of any race, appeared in the show.
The critic Sarah Mower wrote for American Vogue: “In times like these, fashion has a responsibility to walk its talk about women’s representation.” She continued, “Celebrating the entirety of fashion’s rainbow membership is the one political message that must be kept at consistently.”
Vogue and others have spent the season keeping at it consistently. Of the Maison Margiela show on Wednesday, which included only one black model, Ms. Mower wrote, “That is something he (and all designers) needs to rectify.” Cathy Horyn, writing for New York magazine’s The Cut, added, “a more diverse cast would have made all the difference, because the collection was so good.”
Other shows included more women of color, mostly without comment. Haider Ackermann opened his show, set to a Nina Simone soundtrack, with a tableau of three black women. But, when asked backstage, he said it was “not a political statement.”
“Those black women in black, standing there — there was something dignified,” he said. “Which is rare, nowadays. Very rare.”
Mr. Scully’s Instagram post has sparked conversations up and down the front row all week, with many crediting the casting director for raising the issue. “I’m grateful that people are having the conversation,” said Samira Nasr, fashion director of Elle magazine, who is half-Lebanese and half-Trinidadian. “But I think it’s something in fashion in general that we really have to work harder for. We’re supposed to be this colorful industry of creative misfits that come together, yet somehow we’re not that inclusive always.”
“I don’t think we necessarily as an industry represent the world as it is,” she said. “My world is very colorful and I don’t really see it in fashion or on the runways.”
Mr. Scully, who has been deep in the casting process for the Stella McCartney show, said he had been overwhelmed by the response to his post, describing the aftermath as “emotionally draining,” and declining to comment further. That show is to take place Monday morning in Paris; Hermès, cast by Ms. Boina, on Monday afternoon.
Continue reading the main story