Balenciaga had to deal with its fair share of scandals recently. After officially cutting ties with Kanye West, a frequent collaborator, following his antisemitic statements and controversial comments he made about the Black Lives Matter movement, the luxury fashion house is now dealing with one of its biggest and most controversial public relations crises to date.
Following the announcement of Balenciaga’s limited-edition range of collectible homeware titled Objects, the first set of campaign images was quickly flagged online as being grossly inappropriate. The photographs created by photographer Gabriele Galimberti featured toddlers holding some of the items, including a plush teddy bear bag adorned in BDSM gear.
Soon afterward, fashion imagery from a previous campaign promoting the launch of the brand’s collaboration with Adidas resurfaced. One photograph, in particular, sees a handbag from the collection placed on top of some questionable documents. When zoomed in, the documents appear to be from the US Supreme Court citing the use of indecent images of children.
The combination of these two campaigns led to the Balenciaga scandal going viral on social media, accusing the brand of sexualizing young children and endorsing child pornography.
the brand "Balenciaga" just did a uh..... interesting... photoshoot for their new products recently which included a very purposely poorly hidden court document about 'virtual child porn'— shoe (@shoe0nhead) November 21, 2022
normal stuff pic.twitter.com/zjMN5WhZ0s
Balenciaga attempted to remedy this public relations crisis by immediately removing all flagged campaign images and withdrawing the endorsed items from their Objects collection from sale, as well as by issuing a public apology.
However, their statement, as well as the statement of Galimberti, was perceived to show a lack of accountability.
The fashion house announced that they were taking legal action against the team hired to produce the Adidas campaign, claiming that the falsified court documents were unapproved material used during the photoshoot.
Similarly, Galimberti remarked on the photo project for the Objects campaign:
View this post on Instagram
Kim Kardashian, a brand ambassador for Balenciaga, also came under fire for not immediately responding to the campaign images. However, soon afterward, she issued a public statement saying that she was reevaluating her relationship with the brand and elaborating on the reasons for her late response to the incident.
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.— Kim Kardashian (@KimKardashian) November 27, 2022
How this crisis will develop, and whether someone will be held responsible, remains to be seen.