OXFORDSHIRE, United Kingdom — One year after casting director James Scully issued a plea to end the ‘cruel and sadistic’ abuse of fashion models, LVMH’s Antoine Arnault joined Scully on stage at VOICES 2017, BoF’s annual gathering for big thinkers, in partnership with QIC Global Real Estate, to discuss the drafting and enforcement of a landmark charter on the health and safety of models, developed in a rare collaboration with industry rival Kering.
Speaking on the enforcement of the charter, Arnault did not mince words: “We have no problem at all not to work with modelling agencies who don't meet this charter no matter how big they are in this industry. If they don't comply, we will not work with them anymore.”
“We’ve always tried to do things in an ethical and responsible way,” he continued. “There were things I didn’t know or didn’t want to see. But these things were happening every single day, at every show, at every shoot. Every day, something was happening that we needed to resolve.”
We have no problem not to work with modelling agencies who don't meet this charter, no matter how big they are. If they don't comply, we will not work with them anymore.
Marie-Claire Daveu, the group’s chief sustainability officer, spoke on behalf of Kering. “For us, it’s a huge topic and we have been working on the wellbeing of fashion models for a long time, but this year, we felt the need to formalize this. So that’s why we wrote our principles in a great way with LVMH,” she said. "We had a discussion with James Scully and agreed this was the first step. To continue to push boundaries, we have to go beyond and ask other major groups, model agencies and casting directors to take responsibility and join us."
BoF’s Imran Amed, praising the rare collaboration between competitors Kering and LVMH, then issued a call to action to other industry leads to embrace the charter: “Who will join them?” he asked of the attendees, challenging other major groups to step forward.
Alongside improving working conditions, rules on health are another key element of the charter, which bans models below size 34 for women and size 44 for men. “I want to make clear: it’s not a charter against ultra-thinness. It’s been put out there as ‘Kering and LVMH are banning thin models’ but that’s not the case," explained Arnault. "The health of these [models] is important to us. There are people who are thin but healthy."
Success will also require the participation of models themselves. "I would like to ask that we listen more to fashion models, because they are on the ground and they are [able to] best express what is happening," said Daveu. "As a brand, even if you’re doing your best, you won’t know everything. I am calling fashion models to express [themselves]."
“The problem is that it’s still a very silent community. We need feedback from models," said Arnault. "During fashion weeks we have psychology [support] hotlines for models available 24/7. Do you know how many calls we received? Zero. Not one call."
“It’s a fragmented industry. When we work with a model, we don’t pay the model directly — we pay the agent and there’s a lot of middle-people who take commission. Our past responsibility was to provide the wallet,” continued Arnault. “Things are already changing, maybe not to the extent that we want, but it’s going in the right direction.”
At the end of the discussion, Scully revealed for the first time his own history as a victim of abuse. “I’ve long forgiven the people who abused me, but it’s impossible to forgive myself for letting it go on for so long. To those of you who abused us, who turned away, this is the message you leave with us for the rest of our lives,” he revealed, reading with trembling hands a letter penned to Cameron Russell, the American model who took to Instagram to share anonymous accounts of the sexual harassment of fashion models, using the hashtag #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse, as the controversy over Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s alleged history as a longtime sexual predator expanded to other industries.
To Russell, Scully said: “If you thought it was just girls and boys you were helping, it’s so much bigger than that. I’m standing there next to you.”