Balenciaga has issued a second statement in the wake of its controversial campaigns, claiming “third parties” were responsible for the inclusion of a Supreme Court document in one of the images. The brand has now filed a complaint against these third parties.
“All the items included in this shooting were provided by third parties that confirmed in writing that these props were fake office documents,” the brand wrote on Tuesday morning.
“They turned out to be [real legal] papers most likely coming from the filming of a television drama,” it continued, adding that the inclusion of these papers constituted “reckless negligence.”
“We are closely revising our organisation and collective ways of working,” Balenciaga wrote. “We are reinforcing the structures around our creative processes and validation steps. We want to ensure that new controls mark a pivot and will prevent this from happening again.”
The brand’s latest statement comes after one of its biggest allies, Kim Kardashian, issued a stern message against the campaign.
“I have been quiet for the past few days, not because I haven’t been shocked 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,” she wrote in an Instagram story.
“As a mother of four, I have been shaken by those disturbing images. The safety of children must be held with the highest regard and anything against it should have no place in our society – period,” she added.
“I appreciate Balenciaga’s removal of the campaigns and apology. In speaking with them, I believe they understand the seriousness of the issue and will take the necessary measures for this to never happen again.”
Many fashion critics have wondered when we would see Kardashian step out in something other than Balenciaga, with many arguing her collaboration with the brand has seen her aesthetic become repetitive and tedious.
In her statement, Kim has claimed she’s currently reevaluating her relationship with the brand, so this campaign may see the end of her Balenciaga era as we know it.
“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 – and the actions I am expecting to see them take to protect children.”
In case you missed it, Balenciaga has come under fire for featuring ‘easter eggs’ which the internet has called out for relating to or denoting child pornography.
Or, as the internet has cited them as, particularly YouTuber June Nicole Lapine who was amongst the first to call the campaign out, “very purposely poorly hidden court document about ‘virtual child porn'”.
The first campaign was their Spring/Summer 2023 campaign which also featured their collaboration with Adidas. Starring Bella Hadid and French actress Isabelle Hupert, the campaign featured Balenciaga accessories in a “charged setting, acting out typified office behaviours, exemplifying boredom, aggression, stress, and self-satisfaction.”
A few elements of the campaign, however, caught the eye of the internet. Mainly a piece of paper which featured an expert of a Supreme Court case that upholds the pandering of child pornography not protected under the First Amendment.
A second campaign, called Balenciaga’s gift shop, advertised Balenciaga’s new object line and also earned the anger of the internet. This campaign featured a child model holding a bear that, once again, the internet claims to be wearing fetishwear.
Sure, the elements of the wardrobe can be associated with kink (including a harness and fishnet) and should not have been positioned in relation to the child model, but is this a signifier that Balenciaga is promoting the sexualisation of children as social media is so quick to substantiate?
The campaign’s intention certainly wasn’t to sexualise their models or indirectly promote child pornography, many we’re quick to conflate these elements in the shots as Balencaiga’s supposed hidden agenda. A theory that harks back to the 2016 alt-right #pizzagate conspiracy.
Following the backlash, Balenciaga was quick to issue an apology for both campaigns, pull them both from circulation and even revealed that they are taking legal action against those responsible for featuring the documents.
“We apologize for displaying unsettling documents in our campaign. We take this matter very seriously and are taking legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set and including unapproved items for our Spring 23 campaign photoshoot. We strongly condemn abuse of children in any form. We stand for children’s safety and well-being,” the brand announced.
According to reports, Balenciaga have already begun legal action, filing a notice in the Supreme Court of the State of New York against North Six, the production company responsible for the advertisement featuring the Supreme Court document and its agent Nicholas Des Jardins.
Per reports, the summons cites that Balenciaga alleges that “members of the public, including the news media, have falsely and horrifically associated Balenciaga with the repulsive and deeply disturbing subject of the court decision. As a consequence, Balenciaga is allegedly seeking redress of “no less than 25 million”.
As for their gift shop campaign, Balenciaga apologized and admitted that the plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in the campaign.
The campaign’s photographer Gabriele Galimberti has also spoken out about the backlash.
“Following the hundreds of hate mails and messages I received as a result of the photos I took for the Balenciaga campaign, I feel compelled to make this statement,” he said on Instagram.
“I am not in a position to comment on Balenciaga’s choices, but I must stress that I was not entitled in whatsoever manner to neither choose the products, nor the models, nor the combination of the same.
“As a photographer, I was only and solely requested to lit the given scene, and take the shots according to my signature style. As usual for a commercial shooting, the direction of the campaign and the choice of the objects displayed are not in the hands of the photographer.
“I suspect that any person prone to pedophilia searches on the web and has unfortunately a too easy access to images completely different than mine, absolutely explicit in their awful content. Accusations like these are addressed against wrong targets, and distract from the real problem, and criminals.
“Also, I have no connection with the photo where a Supreme Court document appears. That one was taken in another set by other people and was falsely associated with my photos.”
So far, Balenciaga have only released the two aforementioned statements. The brand’s parent company Kering is also yet to address the controversy.