#BlackModelsMatter: Protesters Hit Paris Fashion Week

#BlackModelsMatter: Protesters Hit Paris Fashion Week

Models strike back after abuse allegations at Balenciaga.

Published March 7, 2017

Paris Fashion Week served up a lot more than next season’s looks. Outside of Balenciaga’s FW17 show, a group of young, Black models protested with signs reading "Black Models Matter." The protest comes in direct response to noted fashion designer Demna Gvasalia repeated use of an exclusively white roster of models at both his Vetements runway shows and previous seasons at Balenciaga.

Demna, who is creative director at the French fashion house, has also recently come under fire for abuse allegations at Balenciaga’s latest casting call. Claims of more than 150 girls left waiting for over three hours in a dark staircase without light while casting directors left to get lunch are circulating after esteemed casting director James Scully courageously put his peers on blast via Instagram. While Balenciaga immediately cut ties with those specific casting directors, it’s hard to believe that no one from the label itself held any responsibility on what went down.

Check out James Scully’s post below about the abuse allegations. He also mentions Lanvin for specifically not wanting “to be presented with women of color.”

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

A post shared by james scully (@jamespscully) on

Interestingly, this season it seems as though Deman and Balenciaga have had a change of heart on the whole diversity thing (conveniently after the casting drama) because four out of 47 looks featured Black models. While that’s not a huge leap, it’s a step in the right direction. And if industry insiders like James and models like Indi Irvin (pictured here), who opted to protest sans shirt although it's against Paris's strict no nudity policy, continue to fight the power, fashion can only get more colorful.

Written by Jazmine A. Ortiz

(Photos from top: Olivier Degoulange/REX/Shutterstock)

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