Balenciaga Creative Director: Obvious evidence of child abuse ‘not intentional’

Balenciaga Creative Director: Obvious evidence of child abuse ‘not intentional’

  • US News
  • February 11, 2023
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Balenciaga creative director Demna Gvasalia says two controversial ad campaigns last year – which featured minors and seemingly inappropriate props – were not aimed at making reference to child abuse.

“Despite what a lot of people have suspected … it would never have occurred to me to mess with such a horrible and terrible thing,” the designer told Vogue in an interview published Thursday.

“When the scandal broke… my entire team was shocked,” he added. “I was completely stunned.”

In November, Balenciaga released its Gift Shop and Spring 2023 campaigns. The former prominently featured children holding teddy bear bags with obvious BDSM gear such as studs and harnesses. The latter, less obviously, included text from a Supreme Court ruling on child pornography, a book by a painter known for disturbing depictions of young children, and a fake college certificate with the name of a convicted child molester.

After backlash from netizens and the media, Balenciaga quickly withdrew the campaigns, eventually denying that they promoted child abuse.

Gvasalia, often known simply as Demna, called the Gift Shop campaign a “bad decision on my part” and said the shoot was meant to reference “punk and DIY culture, absolutely not BDSM”. He described it as a “misjudgment” and a “stupid mistake”.

Meanwhile, he told Vogue that the questionable props “shouldn’t be there” in the Spring 2023 campaign, adding that their selection was “negligent and unfortunate, but not intentional.”

Demna Gvasalia.Demna Gvasalia.

Dimitrios Kambouris via Getty Images

“Obviously if you’re looking for the dots you can connect anything but… it wasn’t my intention or Balenciaga’s intention,” Gvasalia told the outlet. “I don’t know if it was someone else’s intention.”

Amid the excitement in November, the renowned fashion house launched a $25 million lawsuit against set designer Nicholas Des Jardins and production company North Six, who worked on the spring 2023 campaign. The suit was later dropped.

The scandal spread so widely that even Kim Kardashian denounced the photos.

As for my future with Balenciaga, I am currently reassessing my relationship with the brand and basing it on their willingness to take responsibility for something that should never have happened – and the actions I expect to take to protect their children.

— Kim Kardashian (@KimKardashian) November 28, 2022

“As a mother of four, I was shocked by the disturbing images.” she tweeted at that time. “Any attempt to normalize child abuse of any kind should have no place in our society — period.”

In an article for The New York Times earlier this week, fashion reporter Vanessa Friedman noted that Balenciaga’s existence remains “at stake” following her “spectacular decline.”

But the brand is trying to keep going. On Wednesday, Balenciaga unveiled a new initiative with the Kering Foundation and the National Children’s Alliance to help traumatized children, among others. The next big test will take place in Paris on March 5th.

Read Gvasalia’s full interview at Vogue.

Do you need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center website.

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