The Balenciaga Scandal: What Now?

Teddy bear
Jamey Heron-Waterhouse

In November of 2022, Balenciaga released their holiday ad campaign, and it featured children styled with bears wearing bondage gear, empty wine glasses, and other disturbing objects.  The brand came under scrutiny as the gear seemed inappropriate and paedophilic, as well as other pieces in the background being spotted that others found disturbing. Jamey Heron-Waterhouse discusses.

One of these disturbing finds was from the Spring/Summer 2023 AD with Adidas, in which copies of the supreme court case, or what seemed to be, Unites States v. Williams, a case that upheld the increased federal protections against child pornography.

Many found this campaign disturbing, with one user on Twitter stating “BALENCIAGA should never be forgiven ever. Their kids campaign has dozens of sick references that are so obvious. So many dark symbolism. Truly unforgivable and criminal. Balenciaga’s executives must be held accountable! #balenciaga #BalenciagaGate #BalenciagaGroomers”

Some even condemned the likes of Kim Kardashian and Bella Hadid who have been strongly associated with the brand as they weren’t as quick to denounce the brand as quickly as others were. Kim had issues the statement that she was ‘disgusted and outraged’ via Twitter but only went as far to claim that she was ‘re-evaluating’ her relationship with them. It seemed in the thread that she had spoken to them and that the chance of her dropping them was pretty slim, rather that their apology was sufficient and she expected them to do better.

The company also claimed to be taking “legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set and including unapproved items.”

Was there any fallout from the scandal?

So, what happened? Was there any fallout from the scandal? In situations like these, it seems easy for brands or people who fall under online scrutiny to simply wait out the storm and then return to business as usual once the uproar has died down. But is that what Balenciaga and its associated celebrities did?

It seems that Kim Kardashian still follows Balenciaga on Instagram (as of 16/03/23). However, Bella Hadid does not follow their Instagram account, and seems to have deleted posts with her in Balenciaga from her Instagram, so perhaps some tie has been cut.

The apology in which they claimed they ‘strongly condemn child abuse’ has been deleted as a post, but still exists as an Instagram story, titled ‘statement’ so there is still proof of their apology and they have pulled the campaign. Via another Instagram story, they announced their three year programme with the National Children’s Alliance which enables them to train 2,000 professionals specialised in child abuse. An estimated 55,000 children will benefit from this programme. They have also linked the NCA on their website, showing their support of the organisation.

One can only hope that some good came out of the uproar

Ultimately, Balenciaga seem to be active in their apology for the ad that caused international upset and concern for children. Their work with the NCA will hopefully only bring good things to the real victims of this entire scandal – the children that suffer because of paedophilia. As for whether or not Kim Kardashian has officially cut ties with the brand or not, it’s hard to tell. One can only hope that some good came out of the uproar.

Jamey Heron-Waterhouse

Featured image courtesy of Oxana Lyashenko via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In article image courtesy of Oli London via Twitter. No changes were made to these images.

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