Balenciaga Apologises After Receiving Backlash Over Disturbing Ad Campaign

balenciaga backlash ad campaign controversy kim kardashian
balenciaga backlash ad campaign controversy kim kardashian

Luxury fashion house Balenciaga has apologised after facing intense backlash over a recent ad campaign that has stirred much controversy.

Eccentricity is ironically common in fashion, especially with luxury fashion brands. People wait with bated breath and social media ready for the next odd thing that a big-name brand will do. In line with that, Balenciaga decided to launch a quirky campaign to get people talking about their Gift Shop collection. However, it turned out to be more creepy than quirky. 

Balenciaga controversy: Brand receives backlash over ad campaign involving kids

The ad campaign, shot by Gabriele Galimberti, involved kids posing with a number of Balenciaga items. The theme of the shoot was inspired by the giving and receiving of gifts as well as Galimberti’s famous “Toy Story” series. Some of the photos had a child holding a teddy bear. Cute, right?

Sure, if the bear wasn’t clad in BDSM gear.

The photos of the campaign clearly show the bear sporting harnesses and handcuffs while being held by the child. Meanwhile, other items strewn around include a dog collar choker and a chain leash. If that wasn’t enough, eagle-eyed people on the Internet also zeroed in on a separate campaign image that displayed some papers that among a mix of scattered items. These turned out to be actual legal documents pertaining to a US Supreme Court case involving child pornography. 

One of Balenciaga’s apologies that was posted on its IG stories (Image credit: Balenciaga IG)
One of Balenciaga’s apologies that was posted on its IG stories (Image credit: Balenciaga IG)

Balenciaga quickly issued an apology on its IG stories, stating “We sincerely apologize for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused. Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign. We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms.” It also issued another apology when the child pornography documents were discovered, saying it was “taking legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set and including unapproved items for our Spring 23 campaign photoshoot” and added that it “strongly condemns abuse of children in any form”.

For his part, Galimberti told CNN that he “was not entitled in whatsoever manner to neither chose (sic) the products, nor the models, nor the combination of the same.” He added, “Lynching like these are addressed against wrong targets, and distract from the real problem, and criminals.”

It’s disturbing that a campaign as big as this would be approved and published. The lack of accountability, especially on Galimberti’s part, is also troubling. Whatever the thinking was behind the campaign, what’s clear is that the people behind it weren’t thinking at all. 

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Social media users boycott Balenciaga in the wake of ad campaign controversy

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Balenciaga’s apology — which also came in the form of an Instagram post uploaded earlier today — has been considered too little, too late. Internet users have launched a veritable boycott of Balenciaga on social networks, in turn sparking a new trend. This involves getting rid of all your Balenciaga gear, either by throwing it away or destroying it, while filming the process.
On TikTok, videos of the kind have multiplied at speed. The hashtag #CancelBalenciaga has reached more than 25.5 million views. Users have even gone as far as filming themselves burning their shoes, tearing up their clothes, cutting up bags or simply throwing their stuff in the garbage.

Balenciaga muse Kim Kardashian weighs in on the controversy

balenciaga campaign controversy kim kardashian
Kim Kardashian in an old ad campaign for Balenciaga, which has stirred controversy with its recent photoshoot. (Image: Kim Kardashian/ Instagram)

The controversy has spread on other social networks like Twitter, with viral videos calling out Balenciaga and its ad campaign, and questioning the initial silence of its muse, Kim Kardashian.

The businesswoman and reality TV star finally spoke out on her social media sites yesterday. She explained the reasons for her silence, stating that she condemned the brand’s campaign.

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Despite that, Kim Kardashian has not decided to call off her collaboration with Balenciaga: “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. … As for my future with Balenciaga, I am currently re-evaluating my relationship with the brand, basing it off their willingness to accept accountability for something that should have never happened to begin with — & the actions I am expecting to see them take to protect children.”

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(Main image: Daniel Lee/Unsplash; Featured image: Balenciaga/ Facebook)

This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Bangkok and has been updated with content from AFP Relaxnews