Balenciaga. A BDSM Teddy Bear. Child pornography court documents. A book depicting toddlers covered in blood.
What do all these have in common? Well, they all appear in the latest Balenciaga campaign; and the scandal has put the designer powerhouse at the top of cancel culture’s list.
It dates back to the “Balenciaga Gift Shop” holiday campaign on November 16, 2022.
The first campaign was approved by Balenciaga’s Creative Director Demna (he goes by his first name only). It includes photos of toddlers holding Teddy Bears wearing leather harnesses. Viewers deemed the association between children and these BDSM elements to be pandering to Child pornography.
A few days later, the second campaign, featuring adult models in an office setting, was released. Although innocently looking, eagle-eyed viewers spotted that the Garde-Robe campaign photos had strange documents, like a page from the Supreme Court ruling of United States Vs. Williams. That ruling made the promotion of child pornography illegal and not protected under freedom of speech.
Another one of these office-themed photos included a hard copy of Belgian artist Michaël Borremans’ book “Fire from the Sun”. In it, Borremans draws “toddlers engaged in playful but mysterious acts with sinister overtones and insinuations of violence.” according to New York art dealer Michael Zwirner.
Cedric Charbit, President and CEO of Balenciaga states on Instagram,
BALENCIAGA TAKES THE FOLLOWING ACTIONS WITH THE OBJECTIVE TO LEARN FROM OUR MISTAKES AS AN ORGANIZATION.
The statement continues,
NEW CONTROL INSTANCES:
- OUR CURRENT PROCESS FOR CONTENT VALIDATION HAS FAILED, AND WE RECOGNIZE THE NEED TO DO BETTER
- ON THE INTERNAL SIDE, WE NOMINATE WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT AN IMAGE BOARD RESPONSIBLE FOR EVALUATING 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 ASSESS AND EVALUATE OUR CONTENT
- WE HAVE REORGANISED OUR IMAGE DEPARTMENT TO ENSURE FULL ALIGNMENT WITH OUR CORPORATE GUIDELINES
- BALENCIAGA HAS DECIDED NOT TO PURSUE LITIGATION
LEARN AND CONTRIBUTE:
- WE WANT TO LEARN, HELP AND CONTRIBUTE TO PROTECT CHILDREN
- WE ARE STARTING TRAININGS ON RESPONSIBLE COMMUNICATION ACROSS OUR TEAMS
- TOGETHER WITH MY TEAM, WE WILL GO ON “LISTENING TOUR” TO ENGAGE WITH ADVOCACY GROUPS WHO AIM TO PROTECT CHILDREN
- WE HAVE SET ASIDE A SIGNIFICANT FUND FOR GRANTS TO ORGANIZATIONS SO THAT WE CAN HELP MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN PROTECTING CHILDREN
I WANT TO PERSONALLY REITERATE MT SINCERE APOLOGIES FOR THE OFFENSE CAUSED AND TAKE MY RESPONSIBILITY.
AT BALENCIAGA, WE STAND TOGETHER FOR CHILDREN SAFETY AND DO NOT TOLERATE AND KIND OF VIOLENCE AND HATRED MESSAGE.
Balenciaga Called Out
Currently, the fashion house is getting called out by celebrities like Kim Kardashian. A self-proclaimed “Balenci-barbie”, the reality star says on Instagram that she’s “reevaluating my relationship with the brand.”
With so many “easter eggs” pointing to child exploitation, the Balenciaga name is now associated with such.
“We strongly condemn abuse of children in any form. We stand for children’s safety and well-being.”
Child abuse is obviously not on brand and definitely shouldn’t be promoted as something that’s “fashionable”. Intentionally or not, that is the message that Balenciaga delivered to the world. As such, the brand is “learning from our mistakes and identifying ways we can contribute“, reads their Instagram.
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