Fashion Culture Design held its "Unconference" on June 9, where some of the most powerful people in fashion critiqued the how the industry is being run today. James Scully, a well known casting director for brands like Jason Wu, Carolina Herrera and Tom Ford, among other high end designers, had a lot to say about recent casting for fashion week. He expressed his outrage at the lack of diversity in some shows, and talked about how upsetting it is that the norm during fashion week is to feature primarily white models, despite the diverse set of people watching what's going down the runway.
In the past, Scully has publicly criticized Raf Simons of Dior and Demna Gvsalia of Balenciaga for their preference of white models in their shows. It's important to note that a staggering 90 percent of the models cast for Fall 2013's Fashion Week were white, according to Fashionista. When Buzzfeed asked leading casting directors why this was, Scully took the opportunity to point out Dior's faults in their model line-up, saying, "I feel the Dior cast is just so pointedly white that it feels deliberate. I watch that show and it bothers me—I almost can't even concentrate on the clothes because of the cast."
As part of the panel at "Unconference," Scully, along with IMG President Ivan Bart, casting director Gilleon Smith, Paper's Editorial Director Mickey Boardman and models Ashley Graham and Alek Wek, discussed the changing definition of beauty in the fashion industry, according to Fashionista. He acknowledged that progess was being made among some designers, but it definitely has not become widespread. In fact, Ashley Graham's success as a plus-sized model in high-end fashion is one of very few stories that show the industry is moving forward—slowly.
One alarming story Scully remembers is of working with model Liya Kebede at the beginning of her career. He explained, "People think Liya Kebede just walked in the door and had an amazing career, but I actually left the business over some horror stories she experienced when she walked in the door." Scully recounted a time he was working with Kebede and a top photographer who did not want to shoot her because she was black.
"I was so stunned that would come out of the [photographer's] agent's mouth and I said, 'You shoot Naomi all the time, you shoot with Edward Enniful all the time,' and [he said], 'Yeah, well, that's different,' and I'm like, 'This girl is going to be huge,'" he said. Scully's choice to stand up for Kebede helped her pave her way to becoming the first black face of Estée Lauder, an important step in the high-end fashion and beauty industry.
Scully also pointed out during "Unconference" that the industry almost seems to be moving backwards rather than making progress. He referred to models like Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington, who used to be thought of as a "normal size." If they gained or lost a few pounds, no one seemed to really mind. Now when a model gains a few pounds, everyone seems to have something to say about it, when it really shouldn't matter. Graham noted that there are multiple charts that will tell her she is obese, when in reality she knows that she is living healthfully and taking care of her body. Bart added that he feels millennials will be the changing force in the fashion industry, saying, "It's no longer going to be the fashion industry dictating what the look is; the consumer will." So, millennials, are you up for the challenge?