James Scully, a well-known audition director and unintentional activist, is moving away from his job step by step. This fall, he will not select models for the 2019 spring and summer big show or fashion blockbuster, but will become a volunteer for the New York State mid-term elections.
But Scully did not leave the fashion circle. This industry has completely changed him, and he has completely changed the industry.
Over the past two years, Scully has worked closely with Sara Ziff, the founder of Model Alliance, and has spent more and more time running around for model rights. The Model Alliance is an American organization that protects young people who are hurt or even killed, and Scully’s job is to expose the unfair treatment they receive. Last fall, Ziff and Scully began working with Condé Nast to develop a new code of conduct to protect models from abuse and unfair practices. In December 2016, Scully gave a speech at the BoF Annual Thinker Event VOICES, exposing industry scandals.
In early 2017, two rivals, Kering and Lu Wei Xuan Group (LVMH), jointly issued a charter to protect model rights.
Despite Scully’s efforts to bring improvements to the fashion industry, some aspects have also regressed. Many accused celebrities have not left, and some have strongly denied that they have misconduct. Photographer Mario Testino said in the New York Times that many of the people accused of him “cannot be considered a reliable source”; Patrick Demarchelier said in the Boston Globe that “many people are lying, making stories “”
If the fashion industry has changed, what has changed?
On a hot summer day in Manhattan, BoF invited Sara Ziff, supermodel activist Karen Elson and James Scully to discuss the current status and prospects of the fashion industry.
Karen Elson: British supermodel, musician, ambassador of the Save the Children Foundation. She is one of the few models to disclose their abuse and harassment.
James Scully: audition director, activist. For the past two years, he has been running for the protection of fashion models.
Sara Ziff: American fashion model, activist, and founder of Model Alliance.
Lauren Sherman: BoF in New York* reporter.
“Many people won’t admit what they did.”
Lauren Sherman: The fashion industry may have been hit by the “I am also” campaign, but there are still many people who are making excuses for their misconduct. You are trying to change this. What made you come today?
James Scully: A few years ago, Sara exposed the problem of abuse of models and refusal to pay in the industry. But at the time I didn’t know much about this. Later, I discovered these phenomena in my work, so I decided to do something. I was shocked by the many shocking things in the Paris fashion world.
Karen Elson: Actually, I really worried about you because I found out, “Wow, James told the truth.” I kept thinking, would you be retaliated for telling the truth? I sometimes get this because of this. Paste the “difficult to deal with” label. For example, sometimes I don’t think about it: “I’m new, don’t need to leave them at the scene.” I sometimes say, “Hey, this girl is 16 years old and has developed. Can everyone be sensible?” At this time people will feel that I am “difficult to deal with” and they will say, “Oh, she is coming again.” Some people are unwilling to face reality. Not that they are morally corrupt, but because the industry is too…
JS: Normalize these behaviors!
KE: That’s true. Once I was at the scene, someone said to me: “Oh, you are Model Alliance. It seems that you have to be very careful with you.” The other party just said casually, it was obviously a joke, but they also said a sentence. Big truth. Sometimes people find that you have an interest organization behind them, and they will feel that you are destroying, rather than trying to make the (the whole industry) ethical. I hope that I will not be materialized when shooting.
LS: Sara, is it easier for people to accept you and work with you now? Or still feel scared?
Sara Ziff: That’s it. We all sit down and discuss this, which in itself shows that we are making progress. But in retrospect, the key is to realize that we are talking about systemic issues, not just talking about them. The fashion industry has basically not established industry norms and there are no standards. Last year, Condé Nast released a code of conduct. Lu Wei Xuan Group and Kai Yun also issued a charter, but the industry code that cannot be enforced is not a real code, but an expectation.
JS: Many organizations have refused to help Model Alliance work for so many years, but the good news is that now… industry insiders realize that this is a serious problem. Now we have to be responsible for our actions. Many people will not admit what they are doing, but at least they are willing to address this issue.
KE: * Awesome 5 institutions may provide support, but the level of participation is not the same. The ones who have worked with me for the past 20 years have been the original one hundred people. Sara is not only fighting for my place in the fashion world, she has done a lot of other work.
JS: What makes me uncomfortable is that many young people are abandoned. I have always wanted the public to understand that we are helping thousands of people who have been seriously injured to return to society.
LS: We’re joking, but it sounds a bit like Stockholm syndrome.
JS: That’s right. Audition director, stylist, magazine assistant, many people have (Stockholm syndrome). The people who are abused in this world are the assistants and stylists.
KE: I have seen many assistants being abused and beaten because they are not good enough for the model!
JS: This phenomenon is too common and typical.
SZ: The change in the fashion industry is that people are beginning to admit that the problem does exist. But the behavior of the industry has not changed, because there is currently no systematic norm to solve these problems. And that’s what we want to achieve with the Respect program. We hope to launch an initiative to the entire industry, not only to establish industry standards, but also to implement them. This will be a win-win situation.
The second step: recognition
“For these deep-rooted problems, we can’t just make superficial articles.”
JS: Everyone knows the problem, everyone is willing to do something, but no one wants to shake hands. They will say: “I will follow if someone else stands up, but now I am not ready yet.” Please!
KE: It’s like everyone is waiting for someone to speak first, and then they will join together.
JS: LVMH and Kering made a statement, but there are no other companies.
LS: How can the fashion industry give birth to this culture? Fashion should be avant-garde and progressive.
JS: But now this is a fearful industry.
SZ: This is also an industry that pays attention to the appearance. But for these deep-rooted problems, we can’t just make superficial articles. At the heart of the Respect program is the need to develop legal norms to maintain industry codes of conduct. It’s not for public relations purposes, it’s not just a non-binding code, it’s about getting everyone involved, including brokerage firms, fashion brands, and publishing companies. There must be a complaint mechanism. Once someone violates the code of conduct, the victim can file a complaint without fear of retaliation. Karen mentioned this before, this is a very real problem.
JS: There are many people who are afraid of the changes in the fashion industry. When I posted on Instagram (exposing the casting directors Maida Gregori Boina and Rami Fernandes to abuse the model), I received hundreds of messages. Almost all the people I worked with sent me a message. Many people wrote at the beginning: “I don’t mind telling you, but you can’t tell anyone about what I told you.” Because they are afraid. I have listened to the same story for 30 times. Among the accused, there are those who grew up with me, my heroes, and others who work with me. It made me a little overwhelmed.
KE: A lot of people really turn a blind eye to the shooting scene.
JS: What shocked me more is that many people are still actively defending them.
SZ: It’s ridiculous, people have to speak on social media. Harvey Weinstein has been out of the scandal for more than a year, but people still think that the channel of voice is social media.
JS: It’s terrible.