While the modeling industry has been implementing changes to protect its talent (just last month LVMH and Kering decided to ban size 0 models in its shows), it seems there’s still a long way to go.
The latest story to rattle the industry comes from model Louise Parker, who was recently ghosted at the last minute by Balenciaga, a brand under the Kering umbrella.
Parker, a 28-year-old model based in Los Angeles, received word from her agent that the Spanish fashion house was interested in having her walk the Spring/Summer 2018 show in Paris. In fashion speak, that’s like learning you’ve been hand-picked by your boss to work on a special project that could totally elevate your career (and offer a sweet bonus payout at the end). Basically: awesome news.
So, Parker got on a 12-hour flight and flew to Paris for a fitting. According to Parker, Balenciaga’s casting director liked her, and had a look from the SS18 collected specially fitted for her measurements. They seemed to liked her so much in fact, that the brand asked Parker to cut her hair into a short bob, just below her ears. Parker, who is a professional and wanted the gig, agreed to the chop so she could fit the look the fashion house wanted to convey on its runway.
Parker left the fitting feeling confident in walking the show, but when she received word from a friend that a Balenciaga runway rehearsal was underway and she hadn’t been notified, she knew something was wrong.
It feels great to take a 12 hour trip for a client, be fitted after waiting for hours, agree to have your hair cut for their show, only to be cancelled the following day. Now that you’re finally paying attention to “model’s rights” (I also got that doctors note to confirm a healthy BMI) maybe I’d feel better if I met with your so called therapist that’s on call 24/7. Thanks for the haircut @balenciaga Thanks @kering_official #fuckyoubalenciaga #kering
“I understand that this story is quite insignificant as far as the rest of the world is concerned, and that right now it seems ridiculous to complain about what, at face-value, is just a long flight and a haircut. I know we all have problems, but this feeling of powerlessness and disposability is a pattern. I’m sick of it, and I know I am not the only one,” Parker wrote in an open letter published on The Cut.
Balenciaga claims they didn’t do anything wrong. Models are sent to ‘go-sees’ all the time and get nixed from shows at the eleventh hour. But for Parker, it felt different this time, like she had been lead on.
“I blame myself in the end; I was too eager, too willing to please. I allowed them to take advantage of my time and my body. I wanted the job, I tried to make it work, and did my best to be polite and flexible,” she wrote.
The brand responded to Parker’s claims in a statement published on The Cut:
“Balenciaga is sincerely sorry for the disappointment of Louise Parker for not being confirmed for the Women SS 2018 show in Paris. The House regrets that there seemed to have been a misunderstanding between Louise Parker and her agent about the fact that flying her for a ‘go & see’, fitting does not mean she would be confirmed.”
Balenciaga also said that they will compensate Parker for the full rate she would have made for walking in the show, but for the model, this has nothing to do with money.
“I have asked that Balenciaga instead donate the money in my behalf to the Model Alliance, an organization that aims to promote fair treatment, equal opportunity, and more sustainable practices in the fashion industry, from the runway to the factory floor.”
Hopefully Balenciaga and other fashion houses see this story as a wake-up call and improve the situation for the professionals they work with.