LONDON, United Kingdom — Ashley Brokaw, casting director for Louis Vuitton and Prada, has responded to claims of mistreatment and abuse at the recent Louis Vuitton Cruise 2018 show at the Miho Museum near Kyoto, Japan.
Ulrikke Hoyer, a Danish model who has walked for Louis Vuitton for several seasons, took to Instagram and Facebook on Thursday to highlight alleged abuse after she claimed she was cancelled from the show at the last minute for being “too fat” and was told to “drink only water for the next 24 hours” by Alexia Cheval, Brokaw’s assistant. In a long statement posted to her Facebook account, Hoyer claimed that she was fitted in Paris for the show and flown to Tokyo, surprised that she was booked “even though I wasn’t in my skinniest 'show-shape,'" and cancelled after arriving in Japan and having just one fitting ahead of the show.
What transpired was an e-mail conversation between Cheval and Arnaud Daian, Hoyer’s Paris agent who was in Kyoto at the time, informing him of the cancellation. BoF can reveal that Cheval wrote: “Nicolas [Ghesquière] was aware she was a 92 hips [sic] and fit her in a dress where hips were hidden. She came yesterday in Tokyo to do her final fitting, and she doesn’t fit the exact same dress anymore. She has a belly, her face is more puffy [sic] and the back of her dress is open and you can see it is tight.”
Now, both Brokaw and Hoyer have spoken exclusively to BoF to clarify the situation. “Honestly, I think that it’s a lot of misunderstanding,” says Brokaw. “We were told before she came for her fitting that she was a 92cm hip. That was fine for everybody and we told the atelier to make whatever we needed to make for her. We said that we’d make her a look and that we want her in the show. She came to Paris, we made a fur coat to her measurements to her body and we confirmed her for the show. Two weeks later, in Tokyo, for whatever reason she came in for her fitting and the coat didn’t fit properly. Once we were in Tokyo we were very limited by what we could do. We didn’t have the atelier to remake anything and we didn’t have a lot of other options to try on her, although we did try some other things on her and nothing quite worked. So it was a situation that was devastating all round.”
Nobody would ever tell anybody not to eat. It’s just not true.
Brokaw is adamant that Cheval did not say that Hoyer must only drink water. She says all the models were told to drink water instead of coffee, Coca-Cola or alcohol to avoid jet lag and dehydration. “Nobody would ever tell anybody not to eat. It’s just not true. We have girls who are travelling for the first time from far away and they land and they want to beat the jet lag, so they start drinking tonnes of coffee and become dehydrated. We had an issue in Rio a year ago at the Resort show when the Norovirus ripped through our hotel, and 50 percent of the girls got sick, including some of my assistants. We did everything we could to make sure that everybody was healthy and rested as much as possible."
“Somehow Ulrikke felt she had a message that she was only supposed to drink water and not eat food, the rest of her experience is maybe coloured by that. Whatever she’s seeing or feeling is obviously triggered by that. What is anybody going to do with the girl who hasn’t eaten in 24 hours? How is she going to walk on a runway?”
Brokaw says that there were plentiful meals organised for the models, with a variety of options. She adds that in the wake of Hoyer's social media posts, she has been the recipient of death threats to her and her children. “I’ve been in this business for over 20 years and I have never experienced anything like this,” she says. “It’s horrific.”
Ulrikke Hoyer also spoke to BoF to elaborate on her claims, saying that she has since received hundreds of messages from models that have worked with Brokaw, sharing similar stories of mistreatment. “I actually lost weight when I arrived in Tokyo, but they thought I was too big,” she says. “Every outfit in that collection is made for a specific body and that specific body and it was fitted for me. I completely fitted the dress, in Japan as well.
"Why would Ashley’s assistant tell my agent things like that I have a belly and that I have a bloated face and that my back is bigger or different than it was in Paris? Also, the fact that telling me to drink only water for 24 hours is just so crazy for me to hear. When I had packed my suitcases and was waiting in the lobby to leave, I told the other girls what had happened. The girls said that none of them were told anything about water or nutrition or anything like that."
I actually lost weight when I arrived in Tokyo, but they thought I was too big.
“I didn’t write this story to have other people say, 'Oh poor thing!' or anything like that,” she continues. “I don't want people to feel sorry for me, because I don't care that I didn’t do that show — I have been cancelled from shows before. It’s more about speaking out about these huge problems that are in the industry and some of the really big high-end fashion houses are part of these problems. If a girl comes into a fitting for a size zero dress and she’s 0.5cm too big or whatever, she will always be the problem. The dress will never be the problem. The other way around, if a girl comes in and a size zero dress is too big for her, they will make a new dress or alter the dress for her. I think it’s crazy and it’s scary.”
Hoyer denies that she did not fit her Louis Vuitton look in Japan, and she also added that every time she has worked with Brokaw, the “environment has been uncomfortable — they like to make models feel inferior.” Her Paris agent, Arnaud Daian at Oui Management, told BoF that he was in Kyoto at the time and all communication from Cheval went through him. “[Cheval] called me and she mentioned that now Ulrikke must only drink water until her next fitting and that it’s time for her to take it seriously if she wanted to be in the show,” he says. “They next day they texted me and said that she would not be in the show, whilst Ulrikke was waiting in the hotel for her fitting. Nobody told her anything. They made her feel terrible and nobody took the time to speak to her. It would’ve taken two minutes and they are responsible for how they make these girls feel.”
“I’m still a human and I need to be treated right,” adds Hoyer. “To not be able to speak with them on a human level, I think that’s so sad. Even after they cancelled me for the show there was no communication at all between me and the team that was there. I got all my information and communication through my agents in Paris and Denmark. I know by saying my story and speaking out I’m risking it all, but I don't care. Maybe this was my last job, then that’s it. I’m done with working for people that will treat me this way.”
“My job is to find girls that I believe in and to push them and to get them into the shows. If it’s somebody I really believe in, I want them to work,” says Brokaw. “I booked Ulrikke on campaigns, on shoots for the New York Times and French Vogue. Nobody tried to fit her into something that was unrealistic. Those issues are getting conflated. Nobody expected her to be anything other than what she was in Paris, and that’s it. I’ve tried to reach out, which of course got lost in seven million comments of 'die Ashley, die.' I have sent an e-mail to her agency and I haven’t heard anything from her agency in Denmark. I just find it upsetting that nobody would get on the phone or at least try to understand how this went so wrong.”
Brokaw and Hoyer present conflicting accounts of the fitting in Japan. If the allegations are true, however, they would not be the first claims of model mistreatment in recent months. In March, the modelling industry's whistle-blower James Scully exposed Balenciaga's abuse of over 150 models at a Paris Fashion Week casting.
Louis Vuitton declined to comment, and has yet to release an official statement on the matter.