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Balenciaga Designer Speaks Out

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Balenciaga’s designer is speaking out about the ad campaign controversy!

As you know, the fashion brand came under fire late last year for sexualizing children in two ad campaigns, one of which featured kids holding teddy bear purses in BDSM gear. Another advertisement for its Spring 2023 collection included three props: a Supreme Court ruling on child pornography laws, a controversial book known for depicting disturbing images of young children, and a college certificate with the name of a convicted child abuser. WTF. Balenciaga issued multiple statements about the inappropriate campaigns, insisting they were not trying to promote child abuse through the pictures. They also apologized for the “series of grievous errors for which Balenciaga takes responsibility,” adding:

“We strongly condemn child abuse. It was never our intent to include it in our narrative…. We take full accountability for our lack of oversight and control of the documents in the background and we could have done things differently.”

Related: Balenciaga 2.0? Harry Styles & Gucci Slammed For Ad With ‘Toddler Mattress’ & Teddy Bear Shirt

The company’s creative director, Demna Gvasalia, even reacted to the drama at the time, calling the campaign “inappropriate.” Amid the controversy, Balenciaga launched a $25 million lawsuit against set designer Nicholas Des Jardins and the North Six production company, which worked on the Spring 2023 campaign. However, the suit was later dropped.

Things haven’t been looking good for Balenciaga, to say the least – especially as celebrities like Kim Kardashian, AnnaLynne McCord, and more have boycotted the brand. Some have even taken it as far as to throw out or burn the luxury items. Now, it looks like Demna is addressing what happened behind the scenes at the brand in his first interview since the scandal.

In an article with Vogue published on Thursday, the 41-year-old designer explained that the teddy bears were inspired by “punk and DIY culture, absolutely not BDSM,” and were worn by adults in his October 2022 show. Needing a variety of products in an image for the “Gift Shop” campaign, Demna believed he could combine a lot of the items into each picture since they weren’t able to shoot “100 images for all of these different products.”

He then picked a photographer, Gabriele Galimberti, because he liked the “composition of his pictures,” specifically “because the photographer’s work often included a multitude of toys placed around a room with kids in the middle of it.” That is where Demna says he messed up:

“This is where my error comes in. That was my big mistake. I didn’t realize how inappropriate it would be to put these objects [in the image] and still have the kid in the middle. It unfortunately was the wrong idea and a bad decision from me. We should not have featured kids in images that included objects that were not related and inappropriate to them.”

While the brand has a process in place to check if a campaign is inappropriate or problematic, no one – not even him – realized there was a problem with the images:

“This was an error of judgment. I regret this a lot.”

As for the ad campaign featuring the Supreme Court ruling on the case of United States v. Williams, which confirmed that First Amendment rights did not include the promotion of child pornography? Demna said he was “shocked” when he learned the documents were in the ad. Despite the timing of campaigns releases, he insisted the the “Gift Shop” and Spring 2023 collection ads weren’t connected and were just unintentional “coincidences”:

“It was a set of negligent and unfortunate but not intentional coincidences. At first, we were told the documents were confirmed to be fake. The Gift Shop campaign was different because the inappropriate nature of associating kids with those objects was clearly our mistake. When the scandal was sparked [by the documents and props], I was like, everybody, my team, was shocked.”

A coincidence? Seriously?! It is alarming that no one realized how inappropriate the images were and went on to approve not just one but two shoots with many references to child porn. And it goes to show how unbelievably negligent the company was in this process.

Ultimately, the Vetements co-founder doesn’t “know how they ended up” in the picture and stressed, “They were not supposed to be there.” When asked point blank if the ads were “intentional,” Demna shut down the accusation:

“Intentional from who? From us? What I can definitely say is that it was not intentional by me or Balenciaga. If it was intentional by someone else, I don’t know.”

He continued:

“I realize that my work has been seen as provocative, but this specific situation would never be part of my, you know, provocative nature. Balenciaga is a house that is over one century old and is based on strong and beautiful creative values, and I have been busy doing all in my creative power to bring it to its modern relevance, and suddenly we were under attack and labeled as something we’re not at all.”

Moving forward, Demna vowed to make sure all ad materials undergo rigorous checks “through multiple channels” to prevent a disturbing mistake like this from happening again. For his part as the creative director, he plans on shifting away from his usual work:

“From my personal point of view, as creative director, I will have to question absolutely everything now. It really changes my way of working, which has previously been more instinctive; doing something that would be seen as maybe provocative just because I was thinking, ‘Oh, that’s fun.’ This is part of my learning: I will have a more mature and serious approach to everything I release as an idea or an image. I have decided to go back to my roots in fashion as well as to the roots of Balenciaga, which is making quality clothes – not making image or buzz.”


Everyone will have to wait and see if Balenciaga puts in the work to make sure this never happens again. Thoughts on what Demna had to say, Perezcious readers? Sound OFF in the comments below. You can also read the entire interview with Vogue HERE.

[Image via Derrick Salters/WENN, Balenciaga/YouTube]

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