The French luxury house Balenciaga finds itself in embarrassment after an advertising campaign mixing children and sexually connoted accessories.
The controversy, which has spread on social networks for a week, is not new in the fashion world, where brands sometimes cross the limits of aesthetics and play with prohibitions to distinguish themselves.
This time, it is the latest advertising campaign accompanying a "Gift collection", which is in question: in some photos, a child, standing on a sofa, or on a bed, is holding a bag in the shape of a teddy bear plush, strapped with black belts.
“Outfits that some have described as inspired by BDSM”, or bondage, a sadomasochistic sexual practice, conceded this Monday Balenciaga, one of the brands of the Kering group, making amends.
When Balenciaga hires you to shoot their new lookbook & you show up to find a toddler laid across a sofa with wine glasses & bondage gear arranged around them, you walk away.
— Hoop (@xhoop) November 21, 2022
Props “should not have been shown with children.
It was a bad choice on the part of Balenciaga”, which takes “sole responsibility”, she added, several days after removing the photos and apologizing for the first time.
A complaint against the production house and the decorator
But Internet users have also noted that in another photo, a bag from a collaboration with Adidas, this time appearing in the "spring-summer 2023" collection, is placed in an office setting, on documents on which are printed excerpts from a US Supreme Court decision on child pornography.
On social networks, some have established a link between the two campaigns, seeing it as a deliberate desire by the brand to send an ambiguous message, which it defended itself on Monday: “We strongly condemn child abuse: it is not was ever our intention to include it in our narrative.
the brand "Balenciaga" just did a uh..... interesting... photoshoot for their new products recently which included a very purposely poorly hidden court document about 'virtual child porn'
normal stuff pic.twitter.com/zjMN5WhZ0s
— shoe (@shoe0nhead) November 21, 2022
For this second incident, Balenciaga still takes “full responsibility for the lack of monitoring and control”, but the brand also indicates that it has “filed a complaint” for “the inclusion of these non-validated documents, the result of irresponsible negligence”.
According to the New York Post, the complaint, filed in the New York courts, is directed against the production house North Six and the decorator Nicholas Des Jardins and claims 25 million dollars in damages, which Balenciaga did not confirm in his statement.
"There was certainly no malicious maneuver - as Balenciaga knows, many boxes of documents were simply obtained on rental from a house of accessories", assured in a message a lawyer from Nicholas Des Jardins, Amelia Brankov.
"In addition, representatives of Balenciaga were present during the filming," she added.
Kardashian comes out of silence
Balenciaga had already apologized last week, but spoke out again on Monday after its face, reality TV star and celebrity Kim Kardashian, broke the silence.
To her 74 million subscriber accounts on Twitter, the American influencer and businesswoman invested in cosmetics and lingerie, said she was "shocked by (the) disturbing images" of the brand's campaigns, "as mother of four children.
But she also claims to have taken note of Balenciaga's apologies and received his explanations.
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.
— Kim Kardashian (@KimKardashian) November 27, 2022
“I am reassessing my relationship with the brand, based on their willingness to accept responsibility for something that should never have happened – and the actions I expect of them to protect children. “, she added Sunday evening on Twitter.
For Balenciaga, the controversy falls badly, because the brand had already cut ties in October with rapper, producer, stylist and businessmen Kanye West, ex-husband of Kim Kardashian, after anti-Semitic slippages.
Three weeks earlier, he had opened the Balenciaga fashion show in Paris in a mud setting.