The Balenciaga Backlash Is Bigger Than You Think
The Balenci-essies are Balenci-messies
Image via Gabriele Holtermann/UPI/Shutterstock / Balenciaga Store in New York City, United States - 29 Nov 2022
Balenciaga is no first-time offender. The infamous fashion house has been riddled with controversy for years. From its less-than-quick dealings with their Kanye West collaboration post-Ye’s antisemitic comments to their blatant appropriation of Black culture.
They’re also behind the $600+ Crocs Stiletto – just to provide deeper insight into how Balenciaga will do anything for the bag.
And while sometimes $2,000 bags that look like paper and $300 barrettes warrant eye rolls and ‘that’s showbiz baby,’ this time around Balenciaga’s most recent campaign passed from morally grey to morally nonexistent.
TL;DR: Balenciaga is facing major backlash for two separate ads: one featuring children with BDSM teddy bears, the other displaying a newspaper headline about a court case that asserts that child pornography isn’t protected under the First Amendment. Oh, and Kim Kardashian and Julia Fox are there, too.
Their holiday ‘22 campaign went viral for all the wrong reasons. Children were posed with teddy bears flaunting leather harnesses and bondage-style fishnets. And in front of them were flasks, chain necklaces, and drinking glasses.
Balenciaga has since apologized for the images, stating that children shouldn’t have been in the ad. But not before they dropped a separate ad for their upcoming SS23 collection in collaboration with Adidas. You know Adidas – the brand that ‘would never drop Kanye’? Well . . . they did. And the brand stood to lose them $650 million dollars but lost Kanye $2 billion dollars – just something to keep you warm at night.
While on the surface the images for the SS23 weren’t nearly as horrific as children with BDSM teddy bears, it’s what’s behind it. The photo was recently deleted from the Balenciaga site as well as the entire internet. But in it, a Balenciaga bag rests on several newspapers – one headline refers to United States v. Williams – a 2008 Supreme Court case, which held that it’s not unconstitutional to forbid the promotion of child pornography.
Balenciaga has since also apologized for the ad featuring the court case, noting that they had no idea it was going to be in the ad, while simultaneously saying they believed the newspapers to be fake headlines.
While they’ve acknowledged they allowed several risque and tasteless situations slip through the cracks of their entire fashion house – and marketing and legal and every relevant department – Balenciaga has sued North Six, the production company that created the ad for $25 million. Balenciaga claims that North Six included the documents “without Balenciaga’s knowledge or authorization.” And that the production company associated the brand’s good name with “the repulsive and deeply disturbing subject of the court decision.”
However, North Six and the set designer for the campaign, Nicholas Des Jardins, will not go quietly into the dark night. Following the lawsuit, Des Jardins’ attorney shot back to Balenciaga:
“Moreover, representatives from Balenciaga were present at the shoot, overseeing it and handling papers and props." Brankov's statement continued "and Des Jardins as a set designer was not responsible for image selection from the shoot."
While North Six states that they, "did not have creative input or control over the shoot. North Six was not on set during the final set arrangements."
And in a non-related quote, and regarding even more non-related people:
“And why is it, when something bad happens, it’s always you three?”
Kim. Julia. Kanye. I’m begging.
People have begun calling on Kim Kardashian and other female faces of Balenciaga like Nicole Kidman and Bella Hadid, to denounce the brand and its most recent outrages. But not on Julia Fox’s watch – or her TikTok.
Julia Fox took to her TikTok to defend Kim Kardashian, saying that asking Kardashian to speak against Balenciaga is internalized misogyny. Confused? Same. See below.
@the_rogue_essentials #stitch with @juliafox …like I get what you’re saying, but isn’t that leaving power and wealth out of the internalized misogyny equation? @the_rogue_essentials ♬ original sound - The Rogue Essentials
Whether or not it’s internalized misogyny to hold Balenciaga and the entirety of their organization – including ambassadors – culpable is clearly up for debate. What’s not up for debate is allowing major fashion houses – and those who profit from them – to skirt social and moral responsibility in the name of ‘cutting edge, high fashion.’
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