It seems some runway casting directors’ views are still as narrow as their model’s hips. Ashley Brokaw, casting director for Louis Vuitton and Prada, recently made headlines for supposed mistreatment and abuse of models at the recent Louis Vuitton Cruise 2018 show at the Miho Museum near Kyoto, Japan. Danish model Ulrikke Hoyer was the most vocal of the victims, citing alleged abuse and body shaming behind her cancelled performance at the show.
Hoyer has walked for Louis Vuitton numerous times prior, yet this Cruise 2018 show had more at stake: Hoyer claims her last-minute firing was due to being “too fat.” According to Hoyer, Brokaw’s assistant Alexia Cheval had told her to “drink only water for the next 24 hours” leading up to the show to fit into her dress.
Hoyer took to Facebook and Instagram to vocalize her disgust and frustration. Hoyer recounted being surprised at her booking for the show since she wasn’t in “my skinniest ‘show-shape.”” Following a Paris fitting, Hoyer was flown to Japan for the show, having just one other fitting in Tokyo prior to the runway. “I actually lost weight when I arrived in Tokyo, but they thought I was too big,” Hoyer said. “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.”
Instead to Hoyer’s surprise, assistant Cheval contact Hoyer’s agent Arnaud Daian complaining about Hoyer’s waistline. “[Creative Director] Nicolas Ghesquiere was aware she was a 92 hips and fit her in a dress where the hips were hidden,” Cheval emailed Daian. “She came yesterday in Tokyo to do her final fitting, and she doesn’t fit the exact dress anymore.” Cheval went on to say Hoyer “had a belly” and that “her face is more puffy,” creating an unflattering fit of the dress. “The back of her dress is open and you can see it is tight,” Cheval wrote.
Hoyer denies that her Louis Vuitton outfit did not fit in Japan.
Agent Daian went on to release more incriminating information, confirming that Cheval had previously suggested that Hoyer 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.” No one had told Hoyer, and she was left waiting in the hotel lobby for her fitting. “They made her feel terrible and nobody took the time to speak to her. They are responsible for how they make these girls feel,” Daian added.
Louis Vuitton casting director Brokaw counters with a different story. “We were told before she came for her fitting that she was a 92cm hip,” Brokaw said. “Two weeks later, in Tokyo, for whatever reason she came in for her fitting and it didn’t fit properly.” Since they were in Tokyo rather than Paris, the atelier was not available to remake the garment. “We were very limited by what we could do. We didn’t have a lot of other options to try on her. So it was a situation that was devastating all around,” Brokaw explained.
Furthermore, Brokaw claims that the models were told to drink water only in lieu of coffee, soda, or alcohol to avoid jet lag. “Nobody would ever tell anybody not to eat. It’s just not true,” Brokaw said. “We did everything we could to make sure that everybody was healthy and rested as much as possible. What is anybody going to do with a girl who hasn’t eaten in 24 hours? How is she going to walk a runway?”
Brokaw added that there were a variety of meals organized for the models as well.
“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,” Brokaw concluded. “Those issues are getting conflated. Nobody expected her to be anything other than what she was in Paris, and that’s it.”
Both parties have been contacted by the public since the story was revealed. Brokaw has received 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 said. “It’s horrific.”
In contrast, Hoyer has been flooded with letters from hundreds of models that have worked with Brokaw, sharing similar stories of abuse.
“I didn’t write this story to have other people say, ‘Oh poor thing!’ or anything like that,” Hoyer said. “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.” Yet the health concerns remain at the focal point of Hoyer’s mind. “I am aware that I’m a product,” Hoyer wrote. “I can separate that, but I have seen way too many girls who are [so] skinny that I don’t even understand how they even walk or talk. It’s so obvious that these girls are in desperate need of help.”
Hoyer added that every time she has worked with Brokaw, she felt that the “environment has been uncomfortable– they like to make models feel inferior.”
These Louis Vuitton incident is on the stiletto heels of another controversy in March exposing mistreatment of over 150 models at another Brokaw-brand Balenciaga’s Paris Fashion Week casting.
Brokaw simply stated that her “job is to “My job is to find girls that I believe in and to push them and to get them into the shows.”
But Hoyer disagrees. Instead she views the fashion industry as a complement to women, not an enemy. “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,” Hoyer said. “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 places her ethics over her career. “I know by saying my story and speaking out I’m risking it all, but I don’t care,” Hoyer said. “I’m done working for people that will treat me this way.”
Louis Vuitton declined to comment.