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Balenciaga axe casting agents for alleged model mistreatment

Fellow casting agent James Scully wrote on Instagram: ‘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’

Balenciaga has announced that it has cut ties with casting agents Maida Gregori Boina and Rami Fernandes, after fellow agent James Scully posted about the two’s alleged mistreatment of models on Instagram.

“I was very disturbed to hear from a number of girls this morning that yesterday at the Balenciaga casting Madia & Ramy (sic) (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,” Scully wrote in a widely-shared post on Monday. “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 traumatised.” He also claimed that other brands were refusing to see models of colour for their runway shows and hiring underage girls for their runways.

As the post gained traction, the comments section was flooded with those condemning the alleged action. One who was present, Judith Schiltz, provided a first-person account, backing up the claims. “If I (was) younger and more into (modelling), I would have been so destroyed by this kind of people or treatment. Personally, I decided to leave the casting, just before (it) was my turn. Just after I saw the casting director screaming at us to go out – outside, in the dark – and told us that we are like groupies in a concert, and how incredible and unbearable it was.”

In the comments, models including Julie Hoomans, Dilone, Leomie Anderson, Joan Smalls and veteran super Helena Christensen praised Scully’s act of speaking out, while another recalled similar treatment at the hands of the duo. “Oh Madia and Ramy.. I remember (those) endless hours waiting until they would see us,” commented Jelena Salikova, who is signed to Wilhelmina. But it wasn’t just those who walk the runway; Antoine Arnault – Berluti boss and son of Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH and one of the most powerful men in fashion – commented to say that Scully would be welcome to approach him personally if he hears of anything like this happening in their fashion houses.

Balenciaga, who is owned by LVMH rival Kering, were quick to act. In a statement made to The Cut, they say that they “took notice of issues with the model castings” and “reacted immediately, making radical changes to the casting process, including discontinuing the relationship with the current casting agency.” They also sent an apology to the agency of those who were made to wait. “Balenciaga condemns this incident and will continue to be deeply committed to ensure the most respectful working conditions for the models,” it concluded.

Scully, who earlier this year pledged to be more vocal about systemic issues in the industry in a talk with the Business of Fashion has drawn widespread praise for his actions. The casting director has promised to shine the light on further maltreatment, which could help usher an end to a culture of silence where models are discouraged from speaking out about bad experiences with designers and casting agents out of fear it could damage their careers.

We have reached out to an agency claiming to represent Boina for comment.