Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Scully's Way

In the final moments before the unveiling of Jason Wu's Fall/Winter 2012 presentation, casting director James Scully huddles with his coterie of models for a telling pre-show pep talk during which he exalts, "We want you confident, strong, gorgeous. I don't book you for your size, I book you because of who you are and you're all beautiful, and never let anyone make you feel less than skinny or not big enough. You're all fucking gorgeous and I want you all to feel that way when you go out there and make the show happen."

James Scully
Photographer - Unknown
Source - lexposure.net

As one of the most respected and authoritative figures in casting, Scully's influence has been a source of wonderment and inspiration from his first casting foray in 1993 for Todd Oldham, to his definitive role in shaping the line-ups for Gucci and YSL during the Tom Ford era, and today on the runways of Derek Lam, Jason Wu, Oscar de la Renta, Nina Ricci, Zac Posen and Stella McCartney. Speaking with truditapscott.com, Scully reveals the fundamental key stones in his approach to casting, "I really do love to match a girl with a client and of course, my clients. At Nina Ricci, the girls tend to be more refined, frail "jeune fille", because the clothes have a lightness about them. Stella McCartney is about maturity, a great body and lots of confidence and that's a hard show to cast because that kind of model is dwindling. But a good example this season would be Jason Wu. His clothes tend to be for a more adult customer so to put conventionally beautiful girls in them would make them look less modern. He tends to like kooky character girls. They take the clothes out of context and give more edge and youth."

Jason Wu - F/W 2012
Photographer - Monica Feudi
Source - style.com

In 1999, Scully segued from show casting for a two year stint as the bookings editor at American Harpers Bazaar, where he was responsible for selecting the models, hairstylists and co-ordinating various talent for shoots. Following what Scully refers to as "the best experience and the hardest job I ever had", he returned to casting faced with a whole new set of challenges. Scully's influence extends beyond the rigid confines of runway and print casting. As a panelist on the Council of Fashion Designers of America's (CFDA) Heath Initiative Board, Scully has been stridently vocal about issues pertaining to the proliferation of underaged models in the industry, the lack of diversity in modelling and unhealthy body image. Scully's personal background, experience and passion for the fashion and modelling industries, lend him a unique and informed perspective on the current state of modelling and the changes that the industry has witnessed.

Speaking with l'exposure.net, Scully addresses the gradual demise of the supermodel phenomenon, "The ideal that the model was this aspirational, rarified creature who inspired you to want to look better seems to be missing these days. Celebrities have almost completely destroyed the modelling and fashion businesses, but I say almost because anything broken can be fixed. Since there were no more cover girls, editors now needed quick inspiration fixes and in came the 15-year-olds whose careers are over before their first editorials are out. No woman can relate to a child in a designer outfit - it's creepy and disconnecting, so the celebrities with their average looks and fuller figures won."

Aspirational Cover Models - Cindy Crawford
US Harpers Bazaar - September 1988
Photographer - Francesco Scavullo
Source - thefashionspot.com

Aspirational Cover Models - Christy Turlington
US Harpers Bazaar - October 1987
Photographer - Richard Avedon
Source - thefashionspot.com

Aspirational Cover Models - Renee Simonsen
US Harpers Bazaar - November 1985
Photographer - Francesco Scavullo
Source - thefashionspot.com

In an interview with truditapscott.com, Scully adds "Vogue was the gold standard for any model in the business, the pinnacle, the Zenith. That set the standard of any girl who walked into an agency. You had to be beautiful enough to eventually get that cover and you had years to work yourself up to that honour.  When you did you called the shots. Every show had to have you. With no covers for girls and the rise of stylists who need an inspiration fix as quickly as the internet moves, and many who don't understand the difference between a show girl and a print girl, this ushered in what I call the era of the disposable model."

The Gold Standard
Naomi Campbell, Tatjana Patitz, Christy Turlington,
Linda Evangelista & Cindy Crawford
British Vogue - January 1990
Photographer - Peter Lindbergh
Source - thefashionspot.com

Scully's loyalty and humanity is a code of practice in his professional dealings with models. Speaking again with l'exposure.net, Scully reveals "When I look at a girl, I'm basically looking for longevity and the possibility that we will work together for many years. For me, it's not about having them first, it's having them at the right moment - that's when they make to most impact. I love a slow burn. I wish agencies would take more time developing a girl instead of throwing her out, hoping to get bites. This is the kind of thing that ends a career before it begins because the girls are still too raw. Again, age and experience make a big difference... The staggering amount of 13 to 17-year-old models starting in the business is alarming. These girls start before they reach puberty, and when they do they are told they are fat and discarded. The greatest models of our day barely leave this industry without scars, so I can't conceive how damaging this would feel to a 16-year-old. Great models don't even blossom till they pass 21, and most of these girls will never have the opportunity."

At the CFDA panel talk in February 2010, Scully again drew attention to the modelling industry's seemingly dispensable attitude towards models once adulthood is attained, "You know, there are times when I will have to book a Karlie Kloss because she's exceptional but what makes me sad is the disloyalty in this agency, and the way these girls are discarded as though they're meat. To me, for Karlie Kloss, what is to say what happened to Gemma Ward, what happened to Hilary Rhoda will not happen to her? We all love her today, but, when she grows breasts and turns 18 are we all going to turn on her?"

Golden Girl - Gemma Ward
French Numéro - November 2006
Photographer - Greg Kadel
Source - thefashionspot.com

Hilary Rhoda
French Numéro - May 2007
Photographer -
Source - nymag.com

Karlie Kloss
French Numéro - December 2011
Photographer - Greg Kadel
Source - fashiongonerogue.com

Scully is equally perturbed by the fashion industry's seemingly blatant turning of a blind eye towards the disparity in modelling opportunities for non-caucasian models compared to their white counterparts. Scully digresses to l'exposure.net, "I love diversity and that's beautiful to me. I grew up in a very poor, white segregated town, and as a boy I always had this fantasy of the exoticism of other cultures. To see pictures of Saint Laurent showing (white) peasant looks on African and Asian women blew my mind, and I had to go into the world and see these women myself. It was my earliest memory of wanting to be in fashion and completely shaped how I view beauty. That Lakshmi is Indian, Liya is Ethiopian, Arlenis is Dominican and Liu Chinese adds more depth of beauty and character to me. There are many people in this industry who hold that against them. I can only assume it's cultural. It's inconceivable to me that someone does not see Liya and Natalia (Vodianova) as equally beautiful but many do not."

Pioneers - Iman Abdulmajid
Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche
Photographer - Unknown
Source - thefashionspot.com

Pioneers - Beverly Johnson
Italian Harpers Bazaar - circa 1980
Photographer - Unknown
Source - topmodelsoftheworld.com

Scully's dedication to his craft and to the long-term career prospects of the models who cross his path is truly commendable. In an industry where beauty is seen as the most valuable commodity, it is Scully's sense of humanity and social responsibility which make him a pioneer. Perhaps it is this ability to look beyond the obvious veneer of beauty which is the key to Scully's success. When quizzed by the Cut in 2008, as to his all-time favourite models, Scully considers factors such as presence, professionalism and personality along with beauty when suggesting Liya Kebede and Raquel Zimmermann as contenders.

Scully is gushing in his assessment of Kebede, "An all time eternal favourite for me - she's an exotic Grace Kelly. Models work for years to develop the poise, grace and style that she came to the business already equipped with! It still shocks me that I sometimes have to sell her to a client, but every time she walks in the room, she always proves me right." Scully is equally enthusiastic about Zimmermann describing her as "The energiser model! I think she's the only model of the last ten years who never goes out of fashion. It's as though she never ages yet gets better looking each season. Probably the most versatile model of all, she truly could be in any show. Her professionalism rivals any model and her timeliness is equal to Cindy Crawford's, whose punctuality was legendary." In the end however, it is the timeless beauty of Christy Turlington who trumps the field, "The greatest model of all time! You could combine every model to this day into one person, and they wouldn't even come close (sorry, girls). Probably the biggest crush I've ever had on a girl. It would be a dream to have the opportunity of working with her on a show again before I retire, but that seems as likely as winning the lottery."

Christy Turlington
British Vogue - circa 1987
Photographer - David Bailey
Source - thefashionspot.com

Liya Kebede
Korean Harpers Bazaar - February 2008
Photographer - Terry Tsiolis
Source - thefashionspot.com

Raquel Zimmermann
US Vogue - April 2011
Photographer - Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott
Source - thefashionspot.com

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