Luxury fashion brand Balenciaga has been under fire over at least two campaigns featuring photos, themes, and images critics deem disturbing, bizarre, and even “demonic.”
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Controversy first broke out over the brand’s holiday collection, which featured images of children with strange and troubling props. The kids were featured with handbags shaped like bears.
These bears were wearing fishnets and leather harnesses, among other items; the images were reportedly taken by photographer Gabriele Galimberti.
CNN described the debacle as follows: “The shots … featured young children with plush teddy bear bags dressed in what looked like BDSM-inspired outfits. One child is pictured with an assortment of empty wine glasses.”
The resulting horror and furor, which spread through social and traditional media, led Balenciaga to apologize publicly, with the Spanish luxury brand seemingly claiming the images were unapproved.
“We apologize for displaying unsettling documents in our campaign,” the statement read. “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.”
The statement continued, “We strongly condemn abuse of children in any form. We stand for children safety and well-being.”
The company said the bear bags should not have been featured with kids and claimed to remove the ads in question from all platforms.
It should be noted Galimberti, who is reportedly not expected to be the subject of a lawsuit, released a statement claiming he had no role over the models or products included in the shoot, according to NPR.
“As is 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,” he said.
Regardless, issues for Balenciaga didn’t end there.
Another campaign under fire
The company’s spring 2023 ad campaign is another one of the elements sparking controversy, as paperwork about a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on child pornography is seen in one of the images, CNN reported.
A paper from the high court’s 2008 United States v. Williams case — a legal battle upholding a child pornography conviction — is seen on a desk in one of the photos advertising a $3,000 purse, according to NPR.
The presence of the page was noticed and news quickly spread online. The ad has since been removed but anger and concern have been raging over its contents.
Following the outrage, Balenciaga filed a $25 million lawsuit seeking damages from set designer Nicholas Des Jardins and production company North Six, Inc.
Des Jardins and North Six were hired to create the spring 2023 campaign, which was reportedly meant to show what appeared to be a corporate work environment.
Gabriela Moussaieff, an agent for Des Jardins, said she believes her client is being used as a “scapegoat” and will be hiring legal representation.
“Everyone from Balenciaga was on the shoot and was present on every shot and worked on the edit of every image in post-production,” Moussaieff told The Washington Post.
Balenciaga’s response to furor
In a post shared to the Balenciaga Instagram page Monday, the company addressed both campaigns, condemning “child abuse” and noting it was never the company’s “intent to include it in our narrative.”
“The two separate ad campaigns in question reflect a series of grievous errors for which Balenciaga takes responsibility,” the statement read.
As for the images in the first campaign, the company admitted to a “failure in assessing and validating images,” and said the responsibility belongs to Balenciaga “alone.”
As for the spring 2023 campaign, the company said all items came from third parties and that they were under the impression these items were fake office props. Instead, they said, they “turned out to be real legal papers, most likely coming from the filming of a television drama.”
While “internal and external” investigations commence, the company is examining its processes.
It should be noted all other past images appear to have been scrubbed from Balenciaga’s Instagram page.
Adverse reaction to the ads has extended well beyond the general public.
Cooper Kupp, wide receiver for the Los Angeles Rams, recently lambasted the company in a Twitter post. He slammed the advertising of “evil” and encouraged people to “stand up.”
“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,” Cupp wrote.
He continued, “Please make yourself aware of the attack against our young ones by Balenciaga, and ensure that they are held responsible for it!”
I have been quiet for the past few days, not because I haven’t been disgusted and outraged by the recent Balenciaga campaigns, but because I wanted an opportunity to speak to their team to understand for myself how this could have happened.— Kim Kardashian (@KimKardashian) November 27, 2022
Kim Kardashian, who has been an ambassador for the brand, also broke her silence on the matter. She said she wanted to speak with the team to understand “how this could have happened.”
The reality TV star also said she has been “shaken” by the images.
“As a mother of four, I have been shaken by the disturbing images,” Kardashian wrote. “The safety of children must be held with the highest regard and any attempts to normalize child abuse of any kind should have no place in our society — period.”
She said she is “re-evaluating” her relationship with the fashion brand. Ironically, the season finale of “The Kardashians” Thursday reportedly featured her walking in a Balenciaga fashion show.
Supermodel Bella Hadid and actor Nicole Kidman, reportedly in the spring 2023 campaign, have not yet responded to the furor. The Daily Mail reported “mounting fury over the silence of Hollywood’s liberal elite,” even as some celebrities have spoken out.
At least one other controversy appears to be swirling as well. Faithwire will continue to investigate as the story develops.
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