Spanish high-couture brand Balenciaga is under fire for its recent Spring-Summer 2023 Gift Shop campaign amid child-abuse allegations.
The photos – which have now been removed – showed children holding teddy bear bags styled with BDSM gear.
Creative designer Demna Gvasalia joined the eponymous brand in 2015 and has successfully upheld its legacy whilst adding his innovative touch. The Georgian designer was in Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2022.
However, the tables seem to have turned. Both the brand and Demna are facing backlash following not just one, but two controversial campaigns.
The first issue of contention is the Spring-Summer 2023 Gift Shop photoshoot. Children are photographed either holding or standing next to the new teddy bear bags. The plushes are styled with fishnets and leather harnesses, very much associated with BDSM practice.
Other suggestive accessories are displayed in the shots. Photographer Garbiele Galimberti has completely dissociated from Balenciaga, stating that “the choice of the objects displayed are not in the hands of the photographer”. The brand has since taken down the campaign photos from their website.
However, users have also noticed a puzzling detail in Balenciaga’s new collaboration with Adidas.
In early November, campaign photos came out which staged A-list celebrities wearing the apparel in an office setting. A photograph displayed a handbag on a pile of paper. The public was quick to discover the document was an extract of the “Aschcroft v. Free Speech Coalition”.
This controversial 2002 U.S. Supreme Court case found that further restricting content related to child pornography would “abridge the freedom to engage in a substantial amount of lawful speech”.
Twitter users have called out the fashion brand with the #BoycottBalenciaga and #CancelBalenciaga. Influencers are posting videos throwing away or cutting their branded clothing, and a Tik-Tok video has surfaced of a graffiti artist painting the words “paedophilia” on the London store window.
Following the public’s reaction to the campaign, Balenciaga has removed all their Instagram posts. President and CEO Cédric Charbit has also issued an apology.
He wrote: “We strongly condemn child abuse; it was never our intent to include it in our narrative”. He goes on to say that “internal and external investigations are ongoing”.
Charbit, along with Demna, have stated they will “engage with child protection organisations” to educate themselves on the matter. Charbit has also declared they “have set aside a significant fund for grants to organisations so that we can help make a difference in protecting children”.
Many have called Kim Kardashian to speak on the matter, both as a mum and a public figure working closely with the brand.
She tweeted: “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”.