Is the Balenciaga scandal not being taken seriously?


Luxury fashion label powerhouse Balenciaga found itself in hot water after two ad campaigns depicted disturbing images which featured children.

Trigger Warning: References to child abuse made.

On November 16, Balenciaga released two new ad campaigns for their Winter 2022 collection and Spring 2023 collection. The campaigns’ ads were posted on Instagram and featured on their website, but it wasn’t until four days later that people started to notice what the ad campaign’s pictures contained and implied.

One of the first big commentators to pick up on the issue was Diet Prada, a fashion industry commentator. As the news spread like wildfire, Fox News host, Tucker Carlson, instantly covered the scandal to influence the public to be outraged at what Balenciaga was promoting.

The Winter Collection had a series of photos with small children clutching onto teddy bear handbags that were dressed in bondage gear. The second campaign had a picture of a desk with messy unreadable paperwork except for one document which happened to be an excerpt from United States V. Williams’ 2008 court case. It is a child pornography case where the defendant Michael Williams promoted and possessed child porn. Another photo had Balenciaga’s name spelled wrong and only showed the words Baal which just so happens to be a Canaanite-Phoenician deity that kids were ritualistically sacrificed to. There are also books shown by an author and Belgian painter, Michael Borremans, that contain lots of disturbing artwork. (Warning: You are free to look up his art, but it’s incredibly disturbing.).

In marketing for big brands, whether it’s a trailer for a movie or a poster for a new season on a show, the point is to promote their campaigns to sell or bring attention to their product. In that process, you would assume that every detail that you want the viewers to see is going to be purposefully placed in the marketing scheme. However, this marketing heavily implied the sexualization and exploitation of children through the number of props, hidden messages, the children’s models, and easter eggs found in both campaigns.

Demna Gvasalia has created controversy since the day she was given the title of artist director, back in 2015. For example, sending models who looked like refugees down the runway carrying trash bags made of expensive leather or putting crocs on heels, was looked to be a unique sort of style. Due to it being such an expensive and high-end brand, no one questioned the narrative or disturbance of the “art”. 

Gabriele Galimberti, who shot the Spring 2023 compaign, and Chris Maggio, who shot te Winter 2022 campaign, were the photographers of the campaigns.

On November 23, Galimberti posted his statement to the issue claiming, “As a photographer, I was only and solely requested to lit the given scene, and take the shots according to my signature style.” The statement clarifies that he was not in control of the “objects displayed,” that his style is nowhere near what he was asked to take and that the targeting and accusations are being targeted towards the wrong people. He claims to have no connection with the Supreme Court documents as they were falsely associated with his photos. 

Concerning the Supreme Court case document in Balenciaga’s apology statement, a story posted to their Instagram account claimed “All 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 paper.” Balenciaga says to have filed a complaint.

Balenciaga went on the list the “following actions” they intend to take while internal and external investigations move forward. They took full responsibility for failing to assess and validate images in the campaign.

On November 25, Balenciaga filed a $25 million lawsuit against North Six and set designer Nicholas Des Jardins but soon dropped the lawsuit.

How have people reacted?

Kim Kardashian, a Balenciaga ambassador and one of the main faces for Balenciaga, represents, supports, and promotes the brand all the while getting paid in the process with free clothes.

Six days had passed since the Balenciaga Scandal and Candace Owens, political commentator, conservative author, talk show host, and activist, called out Kardashian for not responding or making a statement on the matter. About an hour or more after Candace’s response, Kardashian released her response to the scandal in a series of tweets, claiming she had been quiet because she, “wanted an opportunity to speak to their team [referring to her personal team] to understand for me how this could have happened.” After speaking with them, Kardashian felt she understood how serious the issue was and that they won’t let it happen again. She claims to be “re-evaluating my relationship with the brand, basing it off their willingness to accept accountability.”

One user wrote in response to Kardashian’s statement: “I don’t believe that you’re being sincere at all. I think you were just hoping that would blow over. There’s no way that they paid for an ad campaign, they didn’t look over it thoroughly before they put it out there. Seems like it’s more about money for you.” 

Owens did a review with a very similar, almost exact, point of view on the scandal trying to make sense of why Kardashian is JUST now making a statement and how the issue is more than it seems. Owens also tweeted to Kardashian saying, “It only took 6 days for @kimkardashian to not actually condemn Balenciaga for child pornography because although she was disgusted and outraged— money is money and sometimes you gotta let child pornography fly for free clothes and money.” (More of a breakdown and review was given in the podcast).

People are outraged including influencers to the point where they are burning all Balenciaga branded products and promoting the cancelation of the brand itself. There’ve been protests outside of their stores and yet it seems that people will blow over this scandal and move on to the next new interesting thing. Is our world or at least our county so used to scandals and outrageous acts that people don’t have the energy or feel the concern to help and stop this problem?