images courtesy of 2pm Model Management
Updated May 19th with a response from casting director Ashley Brokaw
Here we are again. Ulrikke Høyer’s story regarding Louis Vuitton’s far-flung Resort 2018 show and her experience with its casting team, which was posted on Facebook and Instagram on May 18th, joins the scores of familiar sounding model anecdotes. Her story begins like this: “I just returned from Tokyo/Japan, where Louis Vuitton held a beautiful cruise show in Kyoto (the 14th of May), I just never made it to Kyoto cause I was canceled for the show due to being ‘too big’. (I’m a size 34-36).” Being cancelled from a show is nothing new, something Høyer herself admits, and even being told you’re ‘too big’ seems to be something the models are hardened to hear, after all it is a job based on appearances and your ability to fit the samples. That’s where it gets tricky, as the model’s well-being is often dangerously removed from the equation. But Høyer also knows the extreme side of this mentality, “Many of the girls don’t have their periods, and/or changes the color of their skin because of bad and incorrect nutrition and almost everyone have a completely distorted relationship with food.
On April 23rd, Ulrikke’s measurements were taken by her Danish agency 2pm. Her hips were 92cm which she knew might be a problem for the casting agents and told them accordingly. Regardless, “LV insisted on flying me straight to Paris the next day. I went to the fitting (tried on a dress and a coat) and before I even got back into my own clothes they confirmed me to the show. I was excited to go to Japan and happy to know that even though I wasn’t in my skinniest ‘show-shape’ Louis Vuitton would still have me in their show. Meanwhile I was working very hard to get my measurements back to “right”. One day before leaving to Japan Ulrikke once again took measurements at 2pm. Her hips were now 91.5cm: “At least I was smaller than when they confirmed me, I was relieved.”
Tokyo, May 10th: after a 23 hour journey, Ulrikke arrives for the next and final round of fittings where she went through the motions she’s become accustomed to. Directly after which her Paris agency Oui Management informed her she had a refitting the next day at 12pm and were reportedly told by Alexia (part of Ashley Brokaws casting team) that Ulrikke “needed to take this serious”. Ulrikke stated, “According to her I had ‘a very bloated stomach’, ‘bloated face’… ‘Ulrikke needs to drink only water for the next 24 hours’. I was shocked when I heard it.”
Ulrikke got news that her 12pm refitting had to be rescheduled, which she would find out meant it was indefinitely rescheduled, the 20 year old Danish model had been cancelled from the show altogether, Ashley Brokaw’s camp reportedly citing in an e-mail Høyer fit the dress, “differently than in Paris.” When she learned this, she writes, “I didn’t know whether I should cry or laugh.
The look that Ulrikke was to wear never made it to the runway, probably cut and probably for reasons that had little to do with Ulrikke’s body, raising the question in her head “…then why the need of harassing me.. saying/writing these things to my agents?” saying later in her post, “I cannot accept the ‘normality’ in the behavior of people like this.” Unfortunately this type of behavior has become something of the usual-unusual treatment. Industry-wide unrealistic, dangerous expectations paired with harsh interactions insensitive to the young age of its models has obvious harmful consequences. Who would have thought? This dismissive behavior towards models, and apparent harassment, keeps getting swept under fashion’s figurative rug; one that’s getting awfully hard to walk on.
UPDATE, May 19th 3:57PM: In a response given to Models.com, Ashley Brokaw has stated that the implication that Ulrikke was to not eat was a misunderstanding, “At no time did anyone from my team say to her to drink only water and not eat. Not only is that untrue, but it’s unhealthy and downright dangerous. We advised all the girls coming off the plane to drink only water the first 24 hours because we did not want anyone dehydrated after such a long flight. No coffee, sodas or alcohol because these would only amplify the effects of jet lag. We also advised them to eat whenever they felt hungry and not to wait for regular meal times as their body clocks would be off. We made sure to have food at all times. The first time I went to Tokyo I was super ill with dehydration and was concerned that girls understood the importance of rehydrating after such a long flight.”
She also added, “Of course its always difficult when a model is canceled, and certainly a horrible situation all around. Our intent was always to have Ulrikke in the show. Her measurements were never an issue. We flew her to Paris a few weeks before the show to make the clothes specifically for whatever size she was. We had a fur coat and a trouser made to her measurements – fit directly on her body. No one asked her to lose weight or slim down or to fit a smaller size. When she arrived in Tokyo the clothes that were made for her in Paris, did not fit well. We tried her in a few other looks, but unfortunately could not find something that worked. We did not have the full atelier in Tokyo so we were super limited and left with very few options. We apologized to her agent with her in Tokyo, and of course paid her in full for the job.”
However, in a statement giving to The Business of Fashion, Ulrikke’s agent Arnaud Daian at Oui, who was with her in Japan, substantiated her feelings telling BOF, “[Alexia Cheval] called me and she mentioned that now Ulrikke must 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,” going on to say “They next day they texted me and said that she would not be in the show, whilst Ulrikke was waiting in the hotel for her fitting. Nobody told her anything. They made her feel terrible and nobody took the time to speak to her.”
With their experiences at odds in a he-said-she-said fashion, Brokaw affirms “She has been an LV girl since the beginning and we always love having her. We did have a conversation with her agency about the situation which was professional and confidential by nature. Whatever the agent decided to share with Ulrikke is between them and their client. At no time did anyone on our end have a conversation with Ulrikke directly and again, at no time did anyone tell her or expect her to starve herself.”
This article has been updated to reflect responses given by Ashley Brokaw to Models.com and The Business of Fashion, the BOF’s article can be read here
Did you ever second guess yourself as you were writing the Facebook post?
Yes many times. I didn’t have the best sleep last night as I was shifting between if I should or not. You know I didn’t want to sound bitter or hurt by being canceled from a show. When you reach into the “higher prestigious” end of the fashion business, you are also lucky and told how amazing it is that you simply lose sense in what is right and wrong, it becomes the norm. At the same time I am grateful to Louis Vuitton who were some of the first ones to believe in me and when I had my doubtful moments yesterday it’s because I then felt like a traitor. You know I love working as a model also when it’s hard mentally and physically but it must make sense as well.
As a model do you feel pressure to be silent? To not speak out.
Of course, it’s kind of the job. We enter this knowing we are a product bought for the day and that we in the end are nobody and after we have been here, the same decision makers will still decide who is who and what is what. That’s fine with me, I get it. During my young life, I’ve heard fashion stories about models saying something and everybody goes crazy and then it dies again. It will be the same here, but I made a decision that I never want to be treated like that again and if this was my last job then so be it, so I thought at least I should try and help all the ones who really want this badly to have better conditions…it’s a little hope.
I wanted to know if you felt more unafraid to speak out partially because of all of the recent discourses and first-hand reports that had been published online and the support that people had shown towards those incidents of mistreatment.
Yes definitely, I feel that it could be a movement and if my story can keep that ball rolling then maybe there is a slight hope for change. And hey it’s not that hard as I work with other teams and designers where it’s great.
Naming names–Do you feel it’s the only way change can come, which is by holding people accountable for their actions?
YES! It’s the only way – otherwise you wouldn’t ask me these questions.
What did you want people to take away from your speaking out? Did you hope to motivate other models who have perhaps stayed quiet when they felt mistreated?
Yes either that or leave (the business). I see too many stay for an unhealthily long time and its abuse to their psyche and body. It also then becomes a waste of time for other great things in life”
As the industry stands, do you feel empowered or the opposite?
I only feel empowered if people (who agree) stand up for this and backs it up, otherwise it will lose attention and things go back to how it was before. AGAIN I’m not saying that everybody and all companies are bad, far from that, but some are.
What advice would you want to give in regards to managing your own well-being while being subjected to often unrealistic expectations?
Get knowledge, work to the max and if your max isn’t healthy mentally or physically or taking you further then look for something else.
Read her full post here: