Balenciaga’s creative director Demna Gvasalia has finally broken his silence amid backlash and controversy over the fashion house’s latest campaign, which featured enigmatic photos of children and select props.
“I would like to personally apologize for the wrong artistic concept choice for the gift campaign with the children and I take my responsibility. It was inappropriate to let children promote objects that had nothing to do with it,” he wrote. “As much as I would sometimes like to provoke a thought with my work, I would NEVER intend to do so with such a horrible subject as child abuse that I condemn. Period.”
Demna’s comments come just days after Balenciaga slapped the production team and set designer of the Spring 2023 campaign with a $25 million lawsuit.
The ads, shot in July, featured photos of children apparently holding BDSM bears, as well as a photo of the brand’s iconic “Hourglass” handbag, a piece created as part of its collaboration with Adidas.
We’re also just not talking about how the hourglass pocket ad was one @adidas Balenciaga collaboration? You know the one with the Supreme Court document referring to child pornography?
Where @adidas false apology?
Everyone must be accountable. You have to approve that. pic.twitter.com/tsMOuWhMra
— A (@usern0me) November 26, 2022
One photo shows court documentation on the desk where the Balenciaga bag is placed from the 2008 case titled United States vs. Williams. The controversial case held that “admitting” child pornography did not violate the First Amendment, even if the person charged with such a crime already owned that pornography for trafficking.
Balenciaga is now suing North Six (the company that produced the photo shoot) as well as set designer Nicholas Des Jardins.
The lawsuit, according to documents seen by The Washington Postalleging that “evil or at least extremely reckless” decisions were made on set without Balenciaga’s knowledge or approval as the company is seeking nearly $25 million in damages due to the now-publicly perceived association between the company and the “abhorrent and deeply disturbing subject of the court decision.”
DeJardin’s team told Washington Post that “Everyone from Balenciaga was on the shoot and present for every take and working on the editing of every image in post-production,” in response to news of the lawsuit.
Yet many are calling on celebrities and notable figures to speak out about the troubling campaigns and allegations Balenciaga has been facing since last week, seemingly none more so than Kim Kardashian.
Kardashian, a muse and collaborator of the brand who starred in the Fall 2022 ad campaign, took to social media late Sunday night to break her silence about the “disturbing images.”
As a mother of four, I am shocked by the disturbing images. The safety of children should be held with the highest regard and attempts to normalize child abuse of any kind should have no place in our society – period.
— Kim Kardashian (@KimKardashian) November 27, 2022
As for my future at Balenciaga, I am currently re-evaluating my relationship with the brand, basing myself on their willingness to accept responsibility for something that should never have happened to begin with – and the actions I expect them to take. will take action to protect children.
— Kim Kardashian (@KimKardashian) November 28, 2022
Kardashian has not provided a concrete update on the future of her business partnerships with the fashion house.
Original story below.
Balenciaga is in trouble over its latest ad campaign accusing it of promoting inappropriate behavior involving children – and now both the photographer and company have spoken out.
The original ad campaign, which has since been pulled from the designer’s social platforms and website, featured two young girls holding teddy bears that appear to be wearing BDSM bondage clothes.
Digging further, others on social media noticed that a photo of a Balenciaga bag on a desk contained a document from the Ashcroft vs. Free Speech Coalition, which ruled in favor of virtual child pornography.
A third image showed a red-haired woman sitting on a desk overlooking New York City, with a book by Michael Boerrman featuring nude photographs of children on her desk.
Outraged viewers and shoppers took to the internet to bash the company and shame them for their now-viral campaign.
This is absolutely disgusting. Balenciaga features toddlers in ads holding teddy bears in bondage outfits and with a court document alleging “child pornography” partially hidden in the image.
— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) November 22, 2022
Balenciaga uses pictures of little girls playing with teddy bears dressed in bondage clothes on their website. Sweet. pic.twitter.com/mYnt0CJuif
— Slarty Bartfast (@DatCatDer) November 20, 2022
Following the backlash, Balenciaga apologized via social media.
Instagram via Balenciaga
“We apologize for displaying disturbing documents in our campaign. We take this matter very seriously and are pursuing legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set and including unapproved items for our Spring ’23 campaign photoshoot” , according to the company’s story. “We strongly condemn abuse of children in any form. We stand for the safety and well-being of children.”
Following Balenciaga’s statement, the campaign’s photographer, Gabriele Galimberti, wrote a lengthy statement on his own Instagram account in an attempt to exonerate himself from the creative decisions made in styling and specifying the campaign.
“As a photographer, I was only asked to light the given scene and take the pictures according to my signature style,” he said. “As usual with a commercial shot, the direction of the campaign and the choice of the objects shown are not in the hands of the photographer.”
He also noted that he has received “hundreds” of hate mail and negative messages.
“I am not in a position to comment on Balenciaga’s choices, but I must emphasize that I was in no way entitled to choose neither the products nor the models nor the combination thereof,” he stressed.
This isn’t the first scandal to rock the designer this year.
Amid Kanye West’s slew of anti-Semitic rants and hate speech last month, the company announced it would cut ties with the rapper after collaborating with him on the now-defunct Yeezy Gap line.
“Balenciaga no longer has a relationship or plans for any future projects related to this artist,” said Kering, Balenciaga’s parent company. WWD last month.