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The Scandal of Balenciaga: The Downfall of the Fashion House
Disclaimer: This article includes sensitive content including sexual assault. Please read with caution.
31 January, 2023

Disclaimer: This article includes sensitive content including sexual assault. Please read with caution.

Shock, sex, and scandals have always been able to sell well when it comes to the fashion world. Add toddlers to the mix, and you have quite the seasonal setback. Who would ever choose to mix them?

Well that’s exactly what Balenciaga did. The once iconic fashion house has gained huge criticism after launching their latest campaign, depicting toddlers holding battered teddy bears in bondage, with some next to wine glasses and other adult related trinkets. On top of that, in one of the images, you can see a Supreme Count document of United States V. Williams, a case in which Williams uses an internet forum to exchange child sexual abuse material with the other users. Upon searching his home, agents discovered two hard drives which had “at least 22 images of real children engaged in sexually explicit conduct, some of it sadomasochistic.”


Balenciaga filed a lawsuit against their production company, North Six, as well as the set designer, Nicholas Des Jardins, who claimed that “everyone from Balenciaga was on the shoot…and worked on the edit of every image.” Naturally, this sent the media into a frenzy, accusing the fashion house of attempting to shift the blame.

In addition, photographer Gabriele Galimmberti who was hired to shoot the images issued a statement last November following the mass hate he received upon the collections release.  He stated that “the reaction of the campaign and choice of the objects displayed are not in the hands of the photographer.”

Now, social media tears down the once beloved brand, and #cancelbalenciaga is trending. However, not everyone is sharing the opinion of the public.

Celebrities such as Kim Kardasian were slower to break their silence.  Kim took to twitter and soon reported that, as a mother, she was “shaken by the disturbing images“, ending her statement declaring that she is “re-evaluating her relationship with the brand.”

Her attempt at speaking up about the matter resulted in the internet labelling her a hypocrite, with some labelling her a ‘strategist’ — that everything she writes is carefully crafted for PR purposes. Others called her out for openly campaigning against Taylor Swift in the midst of her feud with Kayne West, yet failing to cut her ties with Balenciaga, despite their wicked actions. Very justified, if you ask me.

Some have yet to weigh in on the matter. Supermodel Bella Hadid and hollywood starlight Nicole Kidman, for example, have been silent on the controversy. Moreover, the stars who attended the Balenciaga show in Paris just a month before the scandal, such as Kylie Jenner and Khloe Kardashian, are also remaining quiet.

Many have called out their silence, and enraged fans swarmed the comment sections of their idols, branding the hypocrisy of speaking up about the morals of brand selectivity. Tweets and TikTok videos of the particulate matter continue to thrive and bring up the question of morality within fashion, or lack thereof. One activist pointed out that “not a single bank has dropped Balenciaga…Culture will cancel a canned food company for their CEO voting Red, but not a fashion brand promoting child pornography.” This only proves that the concept of shockvertising exists in an era where the power is in the people, and those people are online. It is not something the people stand for. The apparent discrepancies between the fashion world, and other sectors, is one that shined bright in this incident.

But hasn’t fashion always been scandalous? Take the idea that ‘sex sells’ for instance.

Yet, there is a line that we cannot cross. We’ve seen pubic hair shaped into Gucci’s logo as advertising, glamorisation of drugs, and straight up pornography. Balenciaga most certainly crossed a line, so far over in fact that they’re selling their products for up to 50% off.

Upon further research however, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to many. We’ve witnessed questionable decisions of the people in charge of Balcenciaga; of their associated companies. Twitter user @Dominiquetaegon goes on an extensively detailed post-threat about François-Henri Pinault, the French multi-billionaire at the helm of Balenciaga’s parent company, Kering, who also owns an auction house which oversaw the sale of extremely graphic child ‘sex mutants.’ Pinault is reported for owning some of these pieces created by the Chapman brothers, and this association between the parent company and the scandal has caused even greater outrage, and questioned whether or not it was the sick intent of someone further up in Balenciaga. 

The aftermath of this seemingly destructive decision has promoted not only a mass rage on the internet, but creative director Demna Gvasalia to be revoked from his Global Voice Award, instantly. Since then, Balenciaga has reduced their products by up to half, and their flagships have been the victim of physical violence and verbal scrutiny. The brand was led to silence, and they dropped the lawsuit in December of 2022.

The scandal continues to be one of the biggest fallbacks of a fashion house in decades, and will surely, we hope, lead other brands to think twice, and then think again, about attempting this form of advertising.

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