Balenciaga’s Demna praised brand’s popularity month before scandal: ‘The fashion elite say hello to me’

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Balenciaga’s creative director, Demna Gvasalia, praised his brand’s popularity and his own success just one month before the fashion house’s latest scandal.

The fashion designer, who is simply known as Demna, applauded the luxury brand during an episode of Intersections: The Art Basel podcast, which was released on 20 October. His remarks came mere weeks before Balenciaga began facing widespread backlash over two recent ads involving children.

During the interview, Demna said that after being seen as an “outsider” throughout his career, he now has successful people in the fashion industry contacting him. The creative has been widely credited for increasing Balenciaga’s profits since becoming its creative director in 2015.

“The fact that today I have the fashion elite say hello to me, they come to my shows, they consider me finally, it’s somehow a victory, probably,” he said. “But it’s almost like a boring victory because it only happened when Balenciaga became successful, when my name was out there, when celebrities started to wear my clothes and all that. So, it’s almost like somebody came and helped me win.”

He noted that while it’s a bit “frustrating” that it feels like his success isn’t entirely his, he’s still “happy about it”.

“I no longer think about making the fashion industry understand what I do,” Demna said. “I just do it. Whether I’m proud of it or not, it doesn’t matter anymore. I don’t have anybody to convince or explain things to. The only people I need to have a conversation with are the people who wear what I do and who understand what I do. And who appreciate it.”

After noting that he “feels more at ease” throughout his career, he credited Balenciaga for giving him the opportunity to create without worrying about what “people think” of it.

“Since I started couture at Balenciaga, finally I found a position in this industry which it’s uncontested,” the designer continued. “I can just chill out and do what I truly believe in without thinking about business or thinking about media or commands about what other people think. All of that just evaporated.”

Demna’s comments about his and Balenciaga’s place in the fashion industry come before the luxury brand issued a statement addressing the fallout over its recent controversial ad campaigns involving children.

One recent ad for the designer’s gift collection campaign featured children posing with the brand’s teddy bear purses, which critics pointed out appear to be wearing BDSM and bondage-inspired accessories. The second ad under scrutiny was for Balenciaga’s Spring 2023 campaign, which used a printout of a Supreme Court decision on child pornography as part of its decor.

Balenciaga issued a statement on Instagram following the backlash: “We strongly condemn child abuse; it was never our intent to include it in our narrative. The two separate ad campaigns in question reflect a series of grievous errors for which Balenciaga takes responsibility.”

The brand proceeded to address the issues with each specific campaign, noting that the ad for its plush bear bag “should not have been featured with children”.

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

Regarding the ad for the Spring 2023 campaign, Balenciaga said the set was “meant to replicate a business office environment”. The backdrop had features purses displayed atop the 2008 Supreme Court case United States v Williams, which criminalised the pandering of child pornography.

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

On Sunday, notable Balenciaga ambassador Kim Kardashian spoke out about the controversial teddy bear campaign and revealed that she’s “re-evaluating” her relationship with the fashion house.

“The safety of children must be held with the highest regard and any attempts to normalize child abuse of any kind should have no place in our society — period,” she wrote on her social media accounts. “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.”

Follow live updates about the scandal here.