Balenciaga under fire over ‘creepy’ ads of kids with ‘bondage outfits’
The backlash surrounding Balenciaga’s recent ad campaigns involving children has remained strong as fans and celebrities continue to denounce the luxury brand.
The Spanish fashion house found itself embroiled in controversy over two ad campaigns – one with a child model holding a “BDSM teddy bear” and another featuring a Supreme Court decision on child pornography and a book about Belgian artist Michaël Borremans.
Addressing the fallout, Balenciaga “strongly condemned” child abuse and said it never intended to “include it in our narrative”.
Creative director Demna has also apologised for the brand’s “wrong artistic choice,” while president and CEO Cédric Charbit apologised “for the offense” the campaign caused.
The remarks did little to quell outrage, with many calling for a boycott of the luxury brand and for celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Nicole Kidman to cut ties.
Kardashian, a longtime brand ambassador, ultimately announced she would be “re-evaluating” the relationship, while her sister Kylie Jenner appeared to distance herself by dismissing speculation that she and her famous family were “covering up” for Balenciaga.
Balenciaga has dropped its lawsuit against the production company in charge of its spring 2023 campaign, in which documents from a Supreme Court case on child pornography were used as props.
In a new statement, the brand said it “has decided not to pursue litigation” against production company North Six Inc, and its agent, Nicholas Des Jardins.
On 25 November, Balenciaga filed a $25m lawsuit accusing the company of engaging in “inexplicable acts and omissions” that were “malevolent or, at the very least, extraordinarily reckless.”
Balenciaga was suing Des Jardins and North Six to “seek redress for extensive damages [they] caused in connection with an advertising campaign Balenciaga hired them to produce.”
The fashion label claimed the defendants “included” excerpts from the 2008 Supreme Court decision United States v Williams – which ruled on the constitutionality of prohibiting the pandering of child pornography – without its knowledge or authorisation.
Meredith Clark2 December 2022 19:50
Balenciaga launches “image board” amid the brand’s recent ad scandal.
“Our current process for content validation has failed, and we recognise the need to do better,” the brand said in a new Instagram statement. “On the internal side, we nominate with immediate effect an image board responsible for evaulating the nature of our content from concept to final assets, including legal, sustainability and diversity expertise.”
“On the external side, we have appointed a best-in-class agency to asses and evaluate our content.”
Meredith Clark2 December 2022 19:30
Cédric Charbit, Balenciaga’s president and CEO, apologised for the “offense” that the brand’s controversial ad campaigns caused in a new Instagram statement.
“I want to personally reiterate my sincere apologies for the offense caused and take my responsibility,” he wrote.
“At Balenciaga, we stand together for children safety and do not tolerate any kind of violence and hatred message.”
Meredith Clark2 December 2022 19:10
Balenciaga issued a new statement about the backlash on 2 December.
The latest statement describes actions Balenciaga will be taking “to learn from our mistakes as an organisation.”
These actions include “new control instances,” such as nominating an image board responsible for evaluating the nature of its content, reorganising the brand’s image department, and dropping its $25m lawsuit against production company North Six.
Balenciaga said it has also “set aside a significant fund for grants to organisations so that we can help make a difference in protecting children”.
This is the brand’s third statement since sparking backlash over two recent ad campaigns involving children.
Meredith Clark2 December 2022 18:50
“The fact that today I have the fashion elite say hello to me, they come to my shows, they consider me finally, it’s somehow a victory, probably,” he said.
On 2 December, the designer issued a statement about the two controversial Balenciaga ads, in which child models posed with teddy bears dressed in bondage gear and a Supreme Court document on child pornography was visible.
“I want to personally apologise for the wrong artistic choice of concept for the gifting campaign with kids and I take my responsibility,” he wrote on Instagram. “It was inappropriate to have kids promote objects that had nothing to do with them.”
Meredith Clark2 December 2022 18:30
WATCH: London Balenciaga store vandalised
Joe Bloggs, known by his artist name as The Average Man, placed a vinyl sticker with the words “paedophilia” on the store’s glass display window at its New Bond street location in central London.
The words appeared three times in black below two back-to-back facing letter “Ps”.
Bloggs explained that the graffiti was in response to Balenciaga’s recent campaign controversy, in which the luxury fashion house published two ads involving children.
A TikToker captured Bloggs defacing the Balenciaga store window in a video captioned: “POV: you’re walking through Central London enjoying the lights and see Balenciaga getting cancelled”.
Balenciaga London store vandalised after controversial campaign
Megan Sheets2 December 2022 18:10
VOICES: Will high-end fashion houses ever learn?
In a comment piece, The Independent’s Olivia Petter asks if the fashion industry will ever learn from this controversy.
“Beyond the obvious criticism, there’s something deeper at play here that helps raise further questions around accountability and what actually drives consumer spending.”
“Because, fundamentally, that’s the intention of these campaigns: to sell us things. Once you take away all of the noise and criticism, major brands almost always succeed in continuing to sell their products, backlash be damned.”
“If the fashion industry keeps neglecting to learn from their mistakes, at what point do they stop being mistakes entirely?”
Megan Sheets2 December 2022 17:40
ICYMI: ‘BDSM bear’ photographer addresses backlash
Prior to Demna’s apology, photographer Gabriele Galimberti addressed backlash to the Balenciaga holiday ad campaign in a statement.
The National Geographic photographer said he felt “compelled to make” the statement following the “hundreds of hate mails and messages I received as a result of the photos I took for the Balenciaga campaign”.
“I am not in a position to comment Balenciaga’s choices, but I must stress that I was not entitled in whatsoever manner to neither chose the products, nor the models, nor the combination of the same,” he wrote on Instagram. “As a photographer, I was only and solely requested to lit the given scene, and take the shots according to my signature style.”
“As usual for a commercial shooting, the direction of the campaign and the choice of the objects displayed are not in the hands of the photographer.”
Galimberti also clarified he has “no connection with the photo where a Supreme Court document appears.”
The Independent’s Chelsea Ritschel has more:
Megan Sheets2 December 2022 17:10
‘I need to learn from this’: Demna’s apology
Balenciaga creative director Demna’s apology Instagram post featured a promise to “learn from this”.
He condemned child abuse and said that he plans to learn more about organisations that are centred on protecting children.
“As much as I would sometimes like to provoke a thought through my work, I would NEVER have an intention to do that with such an awful subject as child abuse that I condemn,” he continued. “I need to learn from this, listen and engage with child protection organisations to know how I can contribute and help on this terrible subject.”
He concluded his apology by sharing what Balenciaga’s next steps would be, following the scandal.
“I apologise to anyone offended by the visuals and Balenciaga has guaranteed that adequate measures will be taken not only to avoid similar mistakes in the future but also to take accountability in protecting child welfare in every way we can,” he concluded.
The Independent’s Amber Raiken has more:
Megan Sheets2 December 2022 16:38
‘How does Balenciaga come back from this?’
Balenciaga creative director Demna’s recent Instagram post in which he apologised for making “the wrong artistic choice” has been received poorly on social media.
After apologising to “anyone offended by the visuals”, the 41-year-old designer said the brand had “guaranteed that adequate measures will be taken not only to avoid similar mistakes in the future but also to take accountability in protecting child welfare in every way we can”.
On Twitter, he has been attacked for his choice of language – “empty” – and for the impact of his artistic decision upon the luxury fashion brand.
“How do they come back from this?,” wrote one user. “The creative vision lies with him. When Galliano had to leave Dior for an antisemitic rant, the brand carried on. Will this do Balenciaga long-term harm? There is no doubt Demna has altered the fashion scene, but I’m not convinced he will survive.”
Joanna Whitehead2 December 2022 15:52