The Spanish-founded, Paris-based, fashion house have come under fire following a series of adverts featuring children holding teddy bears dressed in bondage outfits – including fishnet stockings, chokers, and chains
Another advert from the company, whose main target demographic is Millenials, includes partially-concealed legal documents from a US Supreme Court decision on images of child abuse.
The controversial campaign has been described as disturbing, with many accusing Balenciaga – who have since pulled the adverts – of sexualising children.
Here’s everything we know about the controversy so far.
What have Balenciaga said about the adverts?
Balenciaga issued an apology and announced it had pulled the offensive adverts – which were released as part of Paris Fashion Week in support of the company’s spring 2023 collection – on November 22.
In a statement on Instagram the company said: “We sincerely apologise for any offence our holiday campaign may have caused. Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign. We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms.
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 safety and well-being.”
Is legal action being taken?
Balenciaga recently also confirmed they would be filing a $25m lawsuit against production company North Six, Inc. and set designer Nicholas Des Jardins who produced the adverts for them.
The New York State Supreme Court summons seeks “redress for extensive damages defendants caused in connection with an advertising campaign Balenciaga hired them to produce”, saying that the inclusion of images of the court documents was “malevolent or, at the very least, extraordinarily reckless”.
Who took the pictures and what has he said about them?
Respected photographer Gabriele Galimberti took the images but quickly distanced himself from their contents.
On social media he explained: “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.”
Why is Kim Kardashian involved?
American media personality, socialite, and businesswoman Kim Kardashian is closely connected with the Balenciaga brand, having worn their clothes to a number of high-profile events including the Met Ball and when she hosted Saturday Night Live.
She recently took to the catwalk to feature in her first Paris couture show with the brand, and said it was “a dream come true”.
What has Kim Kardashian said?
Following a period of silence, during which she was bombarded with demands for an explanation from some of her 74.3million Twitter followers, Kim eventually issued a statement on November 27.
She wrote on Twitter: "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.
“As a mother of four, I have been shaken by the disturbing images. 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.
“I appreciate Balenciaga’s removal of the campaigns and apology. In speaking with them, I believe they understand the seriousness of the issue and will take the necessary measures for this to never happen again.
“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 — & the actions I am expecting to see them take to protect children."
What is Kanye West’s involvement?
The rapper and ex-husband of Kim Kardashian, who recently announced his plans to run for President of the USA, was also an ambassador for Balenciaga, but the company cut all links with him after he made anti-Semetic remarks online.