Row over mistreatment of models overshadows Paris fashion week

A furore over the alleged mistreatment of dozens of models behind the scenes at fashion week has threatened to overshadow the glamour in Paris, where the world’s top designers presented their collections on Wednesday.

On the same day that models took to the catwalk for brands including Maison Margiela and Lanvin, Balenciaga – one of the most influential labels – said it had sacked its casting agency after a prominent casting director said models had been subjected to “sadistic and cruel” treatment.

In an Instagram post on Tuesday, James Scully, a veteran of the industry, wrote: “I’m disappointed to come to Paris and hear that the usual suspects are up to the same tricks.”

Models getting ready at Paris fashion week.He alleged that at a recent Balenciaga casting, 150 models had been made to wait in a dark stairwell for hours while a pair of casting directors who Scully claimed were “serial abusers” ate their lunch.

“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 wrote. “Not only was this sadistic and cruel it was dangerous and left more than a few of the girls I spoke with traumatised.”

Balenciaga said on Wednesday that there had been “issues” with a recent model casting. In a statement, the French luxury fashion house said it had made “radical changes” to the casting process and had stopped using the accused 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,” it said. “Balenciaga condemns this incident and will continue to be deeply committed to ensure the most respectful working conditions for the models.”

Maida Gregori Boina, one of the casting directors accused by Scully, denied the allegations and said that she condemned him “for posting inaccurate and libellous remarks”.

Scully, whose post garnered support from supermodels Joan Smalls, Helena Christensen and Carolyn Murphy, also accused the French label Lanvin of discrimination against black models.