There’s a fine line between disruption and bad taste and it seems like Balenciaga has crossed it this time. The label has always been known to push the envelope when it came to fashion. Their creations always got people talking, whether it was the purposefully super-distressed pair of sneakers or empty potato chip bags as clutches.
But their campaign for their Spring/Summer 2023 collection has gone too far, even drawing out a stern statement from their biggest ally, Kim Kardashian. ICYMI, Balenciaga’s latest campaign has been accused of sexualising minors and featuring barely hidden clues that denote child pornography.
The first campaign featured supermodel Bella Hadid and French actress Isabelle Hupert. The setting of the shoot is an office where the models and various Balenciaga accessories are featured in ways that exemplify boredom, stress and other work-related emotions. But the thing that caught eagle-eyed viewers’ eyes was a pretty prominently placed document that featured an excerpt of a Supreme Court case that upholds the pandering of virtual child pornography under the First Amendment.
The second campaign, called ‘Balenciaga’s Gift Shop’, was even more shocking, and obvious, than the first. An ad for Balenciaga’s new object line, the photoshoot featured child models holding teddy bears decked out in fetish gear.
Following the understandable backlash, the label pulled the two campaigns from circulation and issued a standard apology on Instagram.
“We apologize for displaying unsettling documents in our campaign. 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. We strongly condemn abuse of children in any form. We stand for children’s safety and well-being,” read the statement.
The label has filed a suit of $25 million against the production company behind the advertisement and the set designer Nicholas Des Jardins for including the Supreme Court documents in the advertisement. For the second campaign, however, they issued an apology and discontinued the campaign.
Balenciaga isn’t apologizing for what they did.— CJ Pearson (@thecjpearson) November 23, 2022
Balenciaga is apologizing because they got caught.
Don’t confuse the two.
The Gift Shop campaign photographer Gabrielle Galimbert distanced himself from the controversy, stating that he was not involved in the conceptualisation of the shoot.
“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.”
my problem with this statement from #Balenciaga is as a photographer i understand the steps it takes for a shoot to happen so for them to say they had no idea i call bullshit, they could said no at the meeting, at the session , at reviewing the pics and before posting them pic.twitter.com/Au9cIB1ICT— K-Liss Photography (@KLSMTL) November 22, 2022
The outrage following the brand and its associates’ apologetic statements had people questioning Kardashian’s silence on the subject and urged her to speak up because of her long-standing association with the label.
The Skims founder took to Instagram to address the issue, writing, “I have been quiet for the past few days, not because I haven’t been shocked 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.”
The reality show superstar revealed that she is re-evaluating her relationship with the brand. “As for my future with Balenciaga, I am currently re-evaluating my relationship with the brand, basing it off their willingness to accept accountability for something that should have never happened to begin with - and the actions I am expecting to see them take to protect children,” she wrote.
What do you think of Balenciaga’s campaigns?