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 recently found itself embroiled in controversy over two recent ad campaigns. The first campaign, the designer’s gift collection campaign, was criticised for using children to model its teddy bear purses, after critics pointed out the bears appeared to be wearing BDSM and bondage-inspired accessories.
The second ad under scrutiny is Balenciaga’s Spring 2023 campaign, which featured a printout of a Supreme Court decision on child pornography and a book about Beligan artist Michaël Borremans, whose earlier work included depictions of castrated children.
In an attempt to address the fallout, Balenciaga has issued two statements regarding the since-removed campaigns. In the most recent, released on Monday, the brand said it “strongly condemned” child abuse while alleging it was never its intent to “include it in our narrative”.
Balenciaga also filed a lawsuit against the production company behind the Spring 2023 shoot.
The statements and legal complaint have done little to quell the intense reactions from the public over the ads, with many calling for a boycott of the luxury brand, while celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Nicole Kidman have been called on to cut ties with Balenciaga.
Kardashian, a longtime ambassador of the brand, ultimately announced in a statement shared to social media that she would be “re-evaluating” her relationship with Balenciaga moving forward, while her sister Kylie Jenner appeared to distance herself from the brand when she dismissed speculation that she and her famous family were “covering up” for Balenciaga with “calculated” social media posts.
For all the latest updates regarding the ongoing Balenciaga scandal, follow along below.
In their second statement, Balenciaga revealed they are suing production company North Six Inc – and its agent, Nicholas Des Jardins – over the controversial ads.
The suit, which was filed in New York on 25 November, accuses the production company of engaging in “inexplicable acts and omissions” that were “malevolent or, at the very least, extraordinarily reckless.”
Balenciaga alleges that “members of the public, including the news media, have falsely and horrifically associated Balenciaga with the repulsive and deeply disturbing subject of the court decision”.
As a result, Balenciaga is seeking $25m in damages for “all harm resulting from this false association.”
Meredith Clark2 December 2022 06:30
Balenciaga posted a second statement to social media amid backlash from its holiday campaign and spring 2023 photoshoot.
On 28 November, the luxury brand issued a new statement “strongly condemning” child abuse while addressing the fallout over its controversial ad campaigns involving children.
“We strongly condemn child abuse; it was never our intent to include it in our narrative,” the company said. “The two separate ad campaigns in question reflect a series of grievous errors for which Balenciaga takes responsibility.”
Balenciaga explained that its plush bear bags, which appear to be dressed in bondage gear, “should not have been featured with children”.
“This was a wrong choice by Balenciaga, combined with our failure in assessing and validating images. The responsibility for this lies with Balenciaga alone.”
For the second campaign – in which documents from a 2008 Supreme Court case relating to child pornography were visible – Balenciaga said “all the items included in this shooting were provided by third parties that confirmed in writing that these props were fake office documents”.
“They turned out to be real legal papers most likely coming from the filming of a television drama. The inclusion of these unapproved documents was the result of reckless negligence for which Balenciaga has filed a complaint.”
Meredith Clark2 December 2022 05:30
Balenciaga initially apologised for the two campaigns in a statement posted to Instagram on 22 November.
“We sincerely apologise for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused,” the Instagram story statement read.
“Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign. We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms.”
The company went on to address the second campaign, in which documents from a Supreme Court case on child pornography were visible, in a separate post.
“We apologise for displaying unsettling documents in our campaign,” the company said.
“We take this matter very seriously and are taking legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set and including unapproved items for our Spring ‘23 campaign photoshoot.”
Meredith Clark2 December 2022 04:30
The high fashion brand received backlash over a recent holiday ad campaign, which featured child models holding teddy bear handbags seemingly dressed in bondage and BDSM gear, including fishnet tops, studded leather harnesses, and collars with locks.
In a separate photoshoot for Balenciaga’s spring 2023 campaign in collaboration with Adidas, documents identified as being from the 2008 Supreme Court case, United States v Williams – which criminalised the pandering of child pornography – were used as props.
Balenciaga has since clarified in a statement that “all the items included in this shooting were provided by third parties that confirmed in writing that these props were fake office documents”.
“They turned out to be real legal papers most likely coming from the filming of a television drama,” Balenciaga said. “The inclusion of these unapproved documents was the result of reckless negligence for which Balenciaga has filed a complaint.”
Read Balenciaga’s statement here.
Meredith Clark2 December 2022 03:30
This is not Balenciaga’s first brush with backlash.
The Spanish label, founded in 1919, recently cut all ties with Kanye West after the Yeezy designer spouted a series of antisemitic remarks.
In 2021, the brand was accused of cultural appropriation over a pair of $1,190 sweatpants, which appeared to have the top of a pair of boxers peeking out above the waistband.
During its Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2023 show – where the teddy bear handbags made their debut – models wore bruised faces and bloody noses down the catwalk.
Meredith Clark2 December 2022 02:30
“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?”
Olivia Petter asks if the fashion industry will ever learn from controversy.
Meredith Clark2 December 2022 01:30
“Distraction and aversion at its finest!” one Instagram user wrote, while another added: “Random pictures…nothings going to distract us this time Kim!”
A third said: “Just a test post to see how people are reacting to her #cancelbalenciaga #cancelkimkardashian”
Kylie Jenner was also accused by fans of posting pictures of her children to distract from the Balenciaga controversy when she shared rare glimpse at her four-year-old daughter Stormi and nine-month-old son, whose name has not been confirmed.
“Uh why would I post my child to cover up for Balenciaga? This is why I don’t do this. Always something to say,” the Kylie Cosmetics founder responded.
Meredith Clark2 December 2022 00:30
Bella Hadid has been criticised for remaining silent on the Balenciaga scandal, ever since she appeared in Balenciaga’s Spring 2023 campaign, in which one of the ad photos used a Supreme Court case on child pornography as a prop.
However, the supermodel seemed to make a subtle statement when she appeared to have deleted an Instagram post from the Balenciaga photoshoot.
The New York City high-rise themed photoshoot also stars Nicole Kidman, Isabelle Huppert, and Han So Hee.
Meredith Clark1 December 2022 23:30
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”.
Balenciaga London store vandalised after controversial campaign
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”.
Meredith Clark1 December 2022 22:35
NFL star Cooper Krupp weighed in on the Balenciaga controversy when he criticised the brand in a Twitter post on 26 November.
The Los Angeles Rams wide receiver called on his followers to “make [themselves] aware of the attack against our young ones” by the fashion label, and asked people to “stand up” against companies who “advertise evil”.
“To try to be a voice for our children, who rely on the protection of the men and women that were entrusted the responsibility of nurturing them and raising them up: please make yourself aware of the attack against our young ones by @balenciaga, and ensure that they are held responsible for it!” Kupp tweeted.
“For those of us in positions to create change in the way that companies manipulate people and advertise evil, please stand up!”
Meredith Clark1 December 2022 20:00