Balenciaga scandal - latest: Creative director Demna apologises over ad campaign as celebrities toss ‘trash’

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The backlash surrounding Balenciaga’s recent ad campaigns involving children has remained strong as fans and celebrities continue to denounce the luxury brand.

The Spanish fashion house found itself embroiled in controversy over two ad campaigns - one with a child model holding a “BDSM teddy bear” and another featuring a Supreme Court decision on child pornography and a book about Belgian artist Michaël Borremans.

Addressing the fallout, Balenciaga “strongly condemned” child abuse and said it never intended to “include it in our narrative”.

Creative director Demna has also apologised for the brand’s “wrong artistic choice”.

The remarks did little to quell outrage, with many calling for a boycott of the luxury brand and for celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Nicole Kidman to cut ties.

Kardashian, a longtime brand ambassador, ultimately announced she would be “re-evaluating” the relationship, while her sister Kylie Jenner appeared to distance herself by dismissing speculation that she and her famous family were “covering up” for Balenciaga.

For all the latest updates regarding the ongoing Balenciaga scandal, follow along below.

Key points

  • Everything we know about the scandal so far

  • Creative director Demna apologises for ‘wrong artistic choice’

  • Balenciaga takes action against production company

  • Kim Kardashian reevaluating relationship with brand

  • Photographer distances himself from campaign

‘How does Balenciaga come back from this?'

15:52 , Joanna Whitehead

Balenciaga creative director Demna’s recent Instagram post in which he apologised for making “the wrong artistic choice” has been received poorly on social media.

After apologising to “anyone offended by the visuals”, the 41-year-old designer said the brand had “guaranteed that adequate measures will be taken not only to avoid similar mistakes in the future but also to take accountability in protecting child welfare in every way we can”.

On Twitter, he has been attacked for his choice of language - “empty” - and for the impact of his artistic decision upon the luxury fashion brand.

“How do they come back from this?,” wrote one user. “The creative vision lies with him. When Galliano had to leave Dior for an antisemitic rant, the brand carried on. Will this do Balenciaga long-term harm? There is no doubt Demna has altered the fashion scene, but I’m not convinced he will survive.”

‘Pure corporate communication’: Social media responds to Demna apology

15:25 , Megan Sheets

Social media is starting to respond to Balenciaga creative director Demna’s recent statement (see previous post) in which he apologised for making the “wrong artistic choice”.

In a post shared to Instagram, he wrote: “I want to personally apologise for the wrong artistic choice of concept for the gifting campaign with the kids and I take my responsibility (sic). It was inappropriate to have kids promote objects that had nothing to do with them.”

Despite calls for his resignation, the statement has been widely interpreted as a sign that the luxury brand has decided to keep the designer in post.

Responses on social media to the statement have largely been negative so far.

“This is pure corporate communication and empty language elements,” wrote one user on Twitter. “It’s far from being at the level of what’s at stake.”

Another wrote: “What took so long, Demna? I want him out because he’s messing with one of my favourite brands’ legacy”.

Demna in 2016 (AFP via Getty Images)
Demna in 2016 (AFP via Getty Images)

Balenciaga creative director Demna posts apology to Instagram

15:01 , Joanna Whitehead

The creative director of Balenciaga Demna has posted a personal apology to his Instagram page.

It reads: “I want to personally apologise for the wrong artistic choice of concept for the gifting campaign with the kids and I take my responsibility (sic). It was inappropriate to have kids promote objects that had nothing to do with them.

“As much as I would sometimes like to provoke a thought through my work (sic), I would NEVER have an intention to do that with such an awful subject as child abuse which I condemn. Period.

“I need to learn from this, listen and engage with child protection organisations to know how I can contribute and help on this terrible subject.

“I apologise to anyone offended by the visuals and Balenciaga has guaranteed that adequate measures will be taken not only to avoid similar mistakes in the future but also to take accountability in protecting child welfare in every way we can.”

Bachelor star Arie Luyendyk Jr. burns Balenciaga shoes in Instagram post

14:43 , Joanna Whitehead

Arie Luyendyk Jr. and his wife Lauren Burnham are the latest celebrities to protest Balenciaga.

The star of season 22 of The Bachelor burned a pair of Balenciaga shoes and shared it on social media on Thursday (1 December), with the caption, “Bye Balenciaga”.

The 41-year-old and his wife could be seen torching the designer shoes and throwing them in a bin.

Fellow reality TV star Cody Nickson commented: “Burn in hell Balenciaga”, while season 24 winner of The Bachelor, Hannah Ann Sluss, wrote: “And good”, posting a high five emoji.

Another follower wrote: “Don’t forget about Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, and Alexander McQueen. They, and Balenciaga, are all owned by the same parent company. Food for thought.”

Kering has yet to make a statement regarding the controversy.

Social media users have flooded Kering’s Twitter profile with comments regarding the matter.

“Please stop destroying Cristobal Balenciaga’s legacy,” wrote one user.

“The campaign with little girls looking fearful, in beds and with bondage teddy bears does not precisely scream respect or support. Handle the brand with responsibility or give it up.”

Kanye West insists he ‘stands by’ Balenciaga and ‘denounces all witch hunts'

14:12 , Joanna Whitehead

Kanye West announced his support for Balenciaga as part of a Twitterstorm on Thursday (1 December) that saw him suspended from the social media platform.

In a series of controversial tweets, the rapper wrote: “I stand by Balenciaga and denounce all witch hunts and I cancel cancel culture. Jesus is King. Ending trafficking doesn’t start or end with a fashion campaign for Christ Sake”.

In a second tweet, he added: “Never turn our backs Demna [Balenciaga’s creative director] and the Balenciaga family for life. Cancel cancel culture, Jesus please heal.”

West was later suspended for violating the platform’s policy against violence after posted a design of a swastika inside the Star of David.

His comments come despite Balenciaga terminating its relationship with West in October just weeks after he opened the luxury brand’s Paris Fashion Week runway show.

Balenciaga’s parent company Kering said in a statement: “Balenciaga has no longer any relationship nor any plans for future projects related to this artist.”

The announcement was made following West’s outbursts of antisemitism and decision to wear a “White Lives Matter” shirt, during his surprise YZY SZN 9 presentation in Paris, a move that prompted widespread consternation across the fashion industry.

13:00 , Meredith Clark

Read more for everything you need to know about the Balenciaga scandal.

The fashion brand published a controversial campaign featuring children holding bondage teddy bears, and a Supreme Court case on child pornography in a separate ad. Meredith Clark reports

12:00 , Meredith Clark

The photographers behind Balenciaga’s spring 2023 campaign have yet to comment on the backlash.

The photoshoot, which starred Bella Hadid, Nicole Kidman and Isabelle Huppert, was shot by Joshua Bright. Meanwhile, Chris Maggio captured the still-life images of accessories, including the Balenciaga/Adidas Hourglass handbag in which court documents relating to a Supreme Court decision on child pornography appears.

A book by a Belgian artist whose earlier work included depictions of castrated children was also spotted in the campaign images.

Axed Balenciaga ad included book by artist who painted castrated children

10:30 , Meredith Clark

Photographer Gabriele Galimberti addressed backlash to the Balenciaga holiday ad campaign in a recent statement.

The National Geographic photographer said he felt “compelled to make” the statement following the “hundreds of hate mails and messages I received as a result of the photos I took for the Balenciaga campaign”.

“I am not in a position to comment Balenciaga’s choices, but I must stress that I was not entitled in whatsoever manner to neither chose the products, nor the models, nor the combination of the same,” he wrote on Instagram. “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.”

Galimberti also clarified he has “no connection with the photo where a Supreme Court document appears.”

Photographer who shot Balenciaga ad featuring ‘BDSM’ teddy bears breaks silence

08:30 , Meredith Clark

Balenciaga said it will undergo internal and external investigations into the controversial ads.

The brand will also be taking additonal actions to ensure similar issues do not occur in the future, such as “closely revising our organisation and collective ways of working” and “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 company said in a statement.

Going forward, Balenciaga also said it will be working with organisations that “specialise in child protection” and aim to end “child abuse and exploitation”.

“We want to learn from our mistakes and identify ways we can contribute. Balenciaga reiterates its sincere apologies for the offense we have caused and extends its apologies to talents and partners.”

06:30 , Meredith Clark

In their second statement, Balenciaga revealed they are suing production company North Six Inc – and its agent, Nicholas Des Jardins – over the controversial ads.

The suit, which was filed in New York on 25 November, accuses the production company of engaging in “inexplicable acts and omissions” that were “malevolent or, at the very least, extraordinarily reckless.”

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 result, Balenciaga is seeking $25m in damages for “all harm resulting from this false association.”

Balenciaga sues production company for $25m over controversial ad

05:30 , Meredith Clark

Balenciaga posted a second statement to social media amid backlash from its holiday campaign and spring 2023 photoshoot.

On 28 November, the luxury brand issued a new statement “strongly condemning” child abuse while addressing the fallout over its controversial ad campaigns involving children.

“We strongly condemn child abuse; it was never our intent to include it in our narrative,” the company said. “The two separate ad campaigns in question reflect a series of grievous errors for which Balenciaga takes responsibility.”

Balenciaga explained that its plush bear bags, which appear to be dressed in bondage gear, “should not have been featured with children”.

“This was a wrong choice by Balenciaga, combined with our failure in assessing and validating images. The responsibility for this lies with Balenciaga alone.”

For the second campaign – in which documents from a 2008 Supreme Court case relating to child pornography were visible – Balenciaga said “all the items included in this shooting were provided by third parties that confirmed in writing that these props were fake office documents”.

“They turned out to be real legal papers most likely coming from the filming of a television drama. The inclusion of these unapproved documents was the result of reckless negligence for which Balenciaga has filed a complaint.”

Balenciaga releases new statement addressing controversial ads

04:30 , Meredith Clark

Balenciaga initially apologised for the two campaigns in a statement posted to Instagram on 22 November.

“We sincerely apologise for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused,” the Instagram story statement read.

“Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign. We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms.”

The company went on to address the second campaign, in which documents from a Supreme Court case on child pornography were visible, in a separate post.

“We apologise for displaying unsettling documents in our campaign,” the company said.

“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.”

Balenciaga apologises for children’s campaign featuring ‘bondage’ teddy bears

03:30 , Meredith Clark

What did Balenciaga do?

The high fashion brand received backlash over a recent holiday ad campaign, which featured child models holding teddy bear handbags seemingly dressed in bondage and BDSM gear, including fishnet tops, studded leather harnesses, and collars with locks.

In a separate photoshoot for Balenciaga’s spring 2023 campaign in collaboration with Adidas, documents identified as being from the 2008 Supreme Court case, United States v Williams – which criminalised the pandering of child pornography – were used as props.

Balenciaga has since clarified in a statement that “all the items included in this shooting were provided by third parties that confirmed in writing that these props were fake office documents”.

“They turned out to be real legal papers most likely coming from the filming of a television drama,” Balenciaga said. “The inclusion of these unapproved documents was the result of reckless negligence for which Balenciaga has filed a complaint.”

Read Balenciaga’s statement here.

Balenciaga releases new statement addressing controversial ads

02:30 , Meredith Clark

This is not Balenciaga’s first brush with backlash.

The Spanish label, founded in 1919, recently cut all ties with Kanye West after the Yeezy designer spouted a series of antisemitic remarks.

In 2021, the brand was accused of cultural appropriation over a pair of $1,190  sweatpants, which appeared to have the top of a pair of boxers peeking out above the waistband.

During its Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2023 show – where the teddy bear handbags made their debut – models wore bruised faces and bloody noses down the catwalk.

01:30 , Meredith Clark

“Beyond the obvious criticism, there’s something deeper at play here that helps raise further questions around accountability and what actually drives consumer spending.”

“Because, fundamentally, that’s the intention of these campaigns: to sell us things. Once you take away all of the noise and criticism, major brands almost always succeed in continuing to sell their products, backlash be damned.”

“If the fashion industry keeps neglecting to learn from their mistakes, at what point do they stop being mistakes entirely?”

Olivia Petter asks if the fashion industry will ever learn from controversy.

This is why Balenciaga won’t be cancelled

00:30 , Meredith Clark

Like sister Kylie Jenner, some fans accused Kim Kardashian of ignoring the Balenciaga scandal when she posted pictures of her house to Instagram on 29 November.

“Distraction and aversion at its finest!” one Instagram user wrote, while another added: “Random pictures…nothings going to distract us this time Kim!”

A third said: “Just a test post to see how people are reacting to her #cancelbalenciaga #cancelkimkardashian”

Kylie Jenner was also accused by fans of posting pictures of her children to distract from the Balenciaga controversy when she shared rare glimpse at her four-year-old daughter Stormi and nine-month-old son, whose name has not been confirmed.

“Uh why would I post my child to cover up for Balenciaga? This is why I don’t do this. Always something to say,” the Kylie Cosmetics founder responded.

Kylie Jenner dismisses speculation over Instagram posts

Thursday 1 December 2022 23:30 , Meredith Clark

Bella Hadid has been criticised for remaining silent on the Balenciaga scandal, ever since she appeared in Balenciaga’s Spring 2023 campaign, in which one of the ad photos used a Supreme Court case on child pornography as a prop.

However, the supermodel seemed to make a subtle statement when she appeared to have deleted an Instagram post from the Balenciaga photoshoot.

The New York City high-rise themed photoshoot also stars Nicole Kidman, Isabelle Huppert, and Han So Hee.

Bella Hadid reportedly deletes Balenciaga post amid calls to speak out against brand

Thursday 1 December 2022 22:35 , Meredith Clark

A street artist was spotted leaving graffiti on a Balenciaga store window in London amid the brand’s recent ad scandal.

Joe Bloggs, known by his artist name as The Average Man, placed a vinyl sticker with the words “paedophilia” on the store’s glass display window at its New Bond street location in central London.

The words appeared three times in black below two back-to-back facing letter “Ps”.

Bloggs explained that the graffiti was in response to Balenciaga’s recent campaign controversy, in which the luxury fashion house published two ads involving children.

A TikToker captured Bloggs defacing the Balenciaga store window in a video captioned: “POV: you’re walking through Central London enjoying the lights and see Balenciaga getting cancelled”.

Thursday 1 December 2022 21:18 , Meredith Clark

NFL star Cooper Krupp weighed in on the Balenciaga controversy when he criticised the brand in a Twitter post on 26 November.

The Los Angeles Rams wide receiver called on his followers to “make [themselves] aware of the attack against our young ones” by the fashion label, and asked people to “stand up” against companies who “advertise evil”.

“To try to be a voice for our children, who rely on the protection of the men and women that were entrusted the responsibility of nurturing them and raising them up: please make yourself aware of the attack against our young ones by @balenciaga, and ensure that they are held responsible for it!” Kupp tweeted.

“For those of us in positions to create change in the way that companies manipulate people and advertise evil, please stand up!”

Thursday 1 December 2022 19:31 , Chelsea Ritschel

Despite the apologies, the furor over the campaigns continued, with Balenciaga issuing a second statement regarding the controversy on 28 November.

In the social media statement, the brand said it “strongly condemns” child abuse, while noting “it was never our intent to include it in our narrative”.

The statement followed legal action taken by the brand on 25 November, when Balenciaga filed a lawsuit against the production company behind the Spring 2023 ad.

Thursday 1 December 2022 19:00 , Chelsea Ritschel

As the backlash sparked by the social media reactions to the campaigns increased, Balenciaga was forced to address the controversy.

The brand issued its first statement regarding the ads on 22 November, when it removed the images and apologised for both the holiday ad featuring children and the Spring 2023 ad that included court documents pertaining to child pornography.

Thursday 1 December 2022 18:00 , Chelsea Ritschel

The issues raised in Venti’s video made their way to Twitter shortly after she posted her initial TikTok regarding the controverisal campaign.

There, a user by the username @Shoe0nHead, increased awareness of the concerns over the ads when they tweeted: “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’. Normal stuff.”

Thursday 1 December 2022 17:24 , Chelsea Ritschel

According to TikToker Brittany Venti, who became one of the first critics to condemn the ads when she posted a TikTok video about the campaigns on 20 November, she did so after thinking “that’s really messed up” upon seeing the photographs.

Venti, who spoke to BuzzFeed, said she came across the Balenciaga photoshoot of children holding teddy bears dressed in bondage while browsing for fashion news for her YouTube channel.

“I was like: ‘That’s really messed up,’” Venti told BuzzFeed. “They’re holding fetish gear. They’re promoting people’s kinks. And it’s not even a brand that’s supposed to be marketing toward children for any reason. They’re just using the children to market these fetishes.”

Thursday 1 December 2022 15:55 , Chelsea Ritschel

In the comments under Aldean’s post, fans and fellow celebrities praised her for seemingly disposing of her Balenciaga items.

“Yes mama,” Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson commented alongside a clapping hands emoji, while one fan wrote: “Thank you for using your platform to lead well!”

Thursday 1 December 2022 14:34 , Chelsea Ritschel

As the backlash continues into its second week, Brittany Aldean, wife of Jason Aldean, shared a photo of herself throwing out her Balenciaga bags.

“It’s trash day @Balenciaga,” Aldean captioned the photo.

Thursday 1 December 2022 12:00 , Chelsea Ritschel

Despite apologies from Balenciaga, former customers have denounced the brand by destroying clothing and accessories.

Chloe Hennessey, 27, recently filmed herself cutting up a Balenciaga hoodie worth hundreds of dollars, while TikTok has filled with videos of other former customers doing the same.

Balenciaga fan cuts up thousands worth of clothes over teddy bear photoshoot scandal

Thursday 1 December 2022 10:40 , Chelsea Ritschel

Although many fans are disappointed Kim Kardashian did not confirm she would be cutting ties with the brand over the scandal, a new report claims that the Skims founder declined an offer to star in a new campaign for Balenciaga amid the controversy.

According to TMZ, Kardashian allegedly turned down the offer, before issuing her public statement on Sunday.

The reality star has also reportedly made alternate clothing arrangements for upcoming events, after she was initially scheduled to appear in Balenciaga.

Thursday 1 December 2022 08:40 , Chelsea Ritschel

As celebrities and notable figures continue to condemn the brand, The View co-host Sunny Hostin revealed that she also has an issue with the brand’s style.

“What’s also very distasteful, Balenciaga lately,” she said on Monday’s episode. “I mean, their stuff is just ugly.”

Thursday 1 December 2022 06:30 , Chelsea Ritschel

Kylie Jenner shut down claims that she attempted to distract from the Balenciaga scandal with new photos of her family in a comment posted to TikTok.

“Uh why would I post my child to cover up for Balenciaga? This is why I don’t do this. Always something to say,” the reality star wrote.

Kylie Jenner dismisses speculation over Instagram posts

Thursday 1 December 2022 04:30 , Chelsea Ritschel

Despite calls from fans, Nicole Kidman has not yet addressed the backlash over the campaigns, or her involvement in the Spring 2023 shoot.

On Instagram, where the actor has photos from the photoshoot displayed, fans have continued to criticise her silence.

“Where is your statement?” one person commented, while another said: “Why are you associated with this company? Expected better.”

Thursday 1 December 2022 03:30 , Chelsea Ritschel

Additionally, Balenciaga said it would be working with organisations that specialise in child protection moving forward.

“We want to learn from our mistakes and identify ways we can contribute,” the company continued, before issuing another apology for “the offense we have caused”.

Thursday 1 December 2022 02:30 , Chelsea Ritschel

As Balenciaga attempts to make its way out of the controversy, the brand said it would be making a number of changes to the way it operates.

According to the luxury fashion house, one of the changes will be “closely revising” its organisation and “collective ways of working,” while another will include “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 statement added.

Thursday 1 December 2022 01:30 , Chelsea Ritschel

While the backlash over the campaign is recent, the Spring 2023 shoot was actually shot in July.

Photographer Joshua Bright captured the portrait images for the campaign, which meant he was tasked with photographing stars such as Nicole Kidman and Bella Hadid.

Chris Maggio captured the still-life images of accessories for the campaign, according to WWD, which notes that it was a photo of a Balenciaga/Adidas purse that included the Supreme Court documents pertaining to child pornography.

Thursday 1 December 2022 00:30 , Chelsea Ritschel

The explanation the set designer’s agent offered for the presence of Supreme Court documents pertaining to child pornography on the set was similar to the one shared by Balenciaga in a statement released on Monday.

In the statement, Balenciaga said the props “turned out to be real legal papers most likely coming from the filming of a television drama”.

Wednesday 30 November 2022 23:30 , Chelsea Ritschel

Amid the fallout over the brand’s Spring 2023 campaign, Balenciaga filed a lawsuit against production company North Six Inc, and its agent, Nicholas Des Jardins.

However, according to Des Jardins’s agent, Gabriela Moussaieff, who spoke to The Washington Post, the set designer is “being used as a scapegoat,” as he claimed that Balenciaga employees were present at the shoot in question.

“Everyone from Balenciaga was on the shoot and was present on every shot and worked on the edit of every image in post production,” Moussaieff told The Post, adding that the legal papers featured in the shoot were “were obtained from a prop house that were rental pieces used on film [and] photo shoots”.

Wednesday 30 November 2022 21:10 , Chelsea Ritschel

If you need a refresher on all the details about the Balenciaga scandal, you can find everything you need to know below.

The photoshoots that threatened to topple fashion house: What happened at Balenciaga?

Wednesday 30 November 2022 20:13 , Chelsea Ritschel

As for how she responded to the scandal, Kardashian said she would be “re-evaluting” her relationship with the brand moving forward.

“As a mother of four, I have been shaken by the disturbing images,” she said in a social media statement. “The safety of children must be held with the highest regard and any attempts to normalise child abuse of any kind should have no place in our society – period.”

You can read Kardashian’s statement in full below.

Kim Kardashian ‘re-evaluating’ her relationship with Balenciaga

Wednesday 30 November 2022 19:54 , Chelsea Ritschel

Although Kim Kardashian has expressed her disapproval of the campaigns and addressed her ongoing relationship with Balenciaga, fans have continued to call on her to cut ties with the brand.

The pressure increased after Kardashian shared a series of random photos of her home to Instagram this week, with fans alledging the post was an attempt to draw attention away from the Balenciaga scandal, and her role as an ambassador for the brand.

“Fashion gate distraction,” one person wrote in the comments under the post, while another said: “Distraction and aversion at its finest!”

Wednesday 30 November 2022 18:27 , Chelsea Ritschel

While Business of Fashion will no longer honour Demna with the award, it noted in its statement that it has asked the “leadership at Balenciaga” to attend Voices to “take responsibility for releasing these images and offer an explanation”.

According to the fashion agency, Balenciaga declined the invitation. “They declined our invitation to speak at this time, but BoF remains open to having this important conversation,” the statement added.