Junk Explained: Everything You Need To Know About The Balenciaga Campaign Controversies

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Balenciaga has found itself at the centre of a backlash after allegations of a campaign condoning child exploitation spread like wildfire online.

The high fashion brand was quick to apologise and has already removed the fashion campaigns from all platforms.

Kim Kardashian is an ambassador for the brand and posted to her 334 million followers that she was reevaluating her relationship with Balenciaga. The brand also scored a whole special episode on the season finale of The Kardashians.

If there wasn’t already enough in the mix, Balenciaga is now suing the set designer and production company of the campaigns in a $25 million dollar lawsuit, shifting the blame off themselves.

It’s a complex mess, and The New York Times is calling the controversy “the most explicit collision of internet culture, politics, fashion and conspiracy theories to date”.


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What’s Gone Down Here

So where do we start? Well it starts at the top with Demna Gvasalia the artistic director of Balenciaga.

Demna stepped into the role in 2015, and ever since the controversy surrounding the brand has seemed purposefully provocative for brand awareness and hype.

By shedding its traditional Parisian haute couture to embrace street culture, the brand has successfully appealed to younger, aspirational consumers without making the appeal a reality thanks to the price tags.

There was the remodelling of the 99 cent IKEA shopping bag into a luxury good, the dirty and destroyed Paris sneakers selling for over $1000 US dollars, models wearing balaclavas and the infamous mud catwalk — all of which were met with raised eyebrows but still respected by the fashion industry.

That was until last week on November 16th, when a campaign was released featuring photographs of children clutching teddy bears, wearing fishnet tops and leather harnesses with wine glasses on display.

Was this Balenciaga finally pushing the boundaries of what luxury could be too far?

Just under a week later, a separate 2023 Garde-Robe spring campaign was released, including the likes of Nicole Kidman and Bella Hadid.

Netizens zoomed in on one of the images and found paperwork being used as a prop was actually a Supreme Court document on child pornography laws.

There was also a book in the background by the Belgian painter Michael Borremans with particular paintings that have links between the sexualisation and violence towards toddlers.

Is This The End Of Balenciaga?

The backlash has been understandably swift online prompting Balenciaga to come out against the abuse of children in any form.

The fashion house has apologised for having their plush bear bags featured with children and for “displaying unsettling documents”.

And has since taken legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set including alleged unapproved items.

But many people are asking how a high fashion company could spend millions of dollars on campaigns and not extensively review content with a fine tooth comb?

The answer is that they usually and absolutely do.

In fact, it’s quite baffling that no one inside raised the alarm on what the two campaigns were implicitly if not explicitly implying.

Especially with timing of the brand just cutting ties with Kanye West over anti-Semitic statements — the image of the company is everything.

What’s worse is that once right-wing channels, like Fox News show ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ picked up on the story, the backlash veered into QAnon territory. Carlson’s show has dangerously helped spearhead the QAnon conspiracy movement that involves conspiracy theories around child sex rings.

While Demna’s whole schtick has been to poke fun at culture and the luxury fashion establishment, the future of Balenciaga is now in question.

Only time will tell if Balenciaga will be held to account as much as their former high profile client? Or whether they are allowed to move on to the next campaign.