Balenciaga's former casting agent responds to James Scully's accusations
Maida Gregori Boina called the allegations "inaccurate and libellous." Plus, new statements from James Scully and former model Mollie Gondi
[Updated 3 March 2017] Maida Gregori Boina, one of the casting agents that James Scully had accused of model mistreatment and who Balenciaga had dismissed earlier this week, has called the allegations "inaccurate and libellous" and went on to blame Balenciaga for the poor conditions at the casting.
"It is important to stop the spread of rumours and set the record straight," Boina wrote to Business of Fashion via e-mail. "To directly address these accusations, the models did not wait for three 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."
Boina also added that the building's electricity did go out "for a period of time" on Sunday evening. She said that the reception area of Balenciaga's headquarters was unavailable and hence models were made to wait on a staircase. She was "saddened to be released from the casting without a discussion of what actually took place" and that she was also "very concerned that James, as a casting director himself, has intentionally misrepresented the facts for personal career gain without substantiating the story."
Despite that claim, James isn't backing down from his accusations. "What Maida and Rami [Fernandes] did, they have been doing for a long time," he told Business of Fashion. "They are the king and queen of abuse. I've heard stories from girls who were left waiting for so long without food or water that they ordered a pizza, and Maida came out and started shouting at them and calling them pigs."
The plot thickens; former model Mollie Gondi backed James's case, commenting on his Instagram post. "Maida would request me season after season to do the exact same thing," she wrote. "Lock me in a room for 3 hours while everyone panicked, only to never, ever book me. The apology to the agencies from the fashion house is laughable because the agents have known this for years and don't think twice because they want their girl in the show."
Paris Fashion Week is well underway and has already had its fair share of drama. Earlier this week, casting director James Scully called out Balenciaga and Lanvin for their mistreatment of the models that attended the casting search for the runway shows. He made his displeasure public on Instagram (because where else?).
"I was very disturbed to hear from a number of girls this morning that yesterday at the Balenciaga casting Maida [Gregori Boina] & Rami [Fernandes] (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," James wrote.
"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," he continued. "Not only was this sadistic and cruel it was dangerous and left more than a few of the girls I spoke with traumatised. 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."
So true to my promise at #bofvoices that I would be a voice for any models, agents or all who see things wrong with this business I'm disappointed to come to Paris and hear that the usual suspects are up to the same tricks. 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. 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 Hermes and Ellie Saab who they also cast for because they refuse to be treated like animals. Balenciaga part of Kering it is a public company and these houses need to know what the people they hire are doing on their behalf before a well deserved law suit comes their way. On top of that 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. And another big house is trying to sneak 15 year olds into paris! It's inconceivable to me that people have no regard for human decency or the lives and feelings of these girls, especially when too too many of these models are under the age of 18 and clearly not equipped to be here but god forbid well sacrifice anything or anyone for an exclusive right? If this behavior continues it's gonna be a long cold week in paris. Please keep sharing your stories with me and I will continue to to share them for you. It seems to be the only way we can force change and give the power back to you models and agents where it rightfully belongs. And I encourage any and all to share this post #watchthisspace
After calling out Balenciaga, the casting director went on to say that he had heard Lanvin did not want to be presented with female models of colour. He also said that "another big house is trying to sneak 15-year-olds into Paris!" which is illegal because the minimum age for runway models is 16.
In response to the situation, Balenciaga issued a statement, distancing itself from Maida and Ramy.
"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."
Lanvin on the other hand, claimed that "these allegations are completely false and baseless." Regardless, James stands by his now viral post.
"We can't treat these girls like they're disposable. Even the biggest girls feel the pressure of there being a new girl who could come and take their job if they aren't thin enough, if they don't do what they're told," he said in an interview. "They're treated like things that can be traded and have no feelings. Someone has been called out now; nobody believed someone would do it, whether it was me or someone else. Now that the girls have been given a voice, I think it's time to continue. The agents have been just as pushed around by these people."