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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

Balenciaga, with their huge rise to success being easily the biggest fashion house of the 2020s, has now become the world’s most hated luxury brand overnight. In their latest holiday ad campaign, Balenciaga’s creative vision was the same as always; a weird, confusing composition that was nothing different from what they usually cook up. However, the question then came to the minds of many: Why were children involved with garments and accessories that showcased undertones of BDSM subculture? 

With this vile thought and imagery in front of them, viewers then took matters into their own hands to dive deeper. What was revealed was a shocking display of hidden messages and extremely graphic and disturbing “props.” Court case papers that depicted trials that were in support of paedophilia, a book about Michaël Borremans who’s artistic works often depict gruesome and disturbing scenes, and possible cult and satanic subliminal messages are just some of the confusing and down right questionable things that turned heads and dropped jaws globally. 

The thought on everyone’s mind: Why? What does this mean about the upper class that we all love to support? And who can be trusted? Following the Jeffrey Epstein case from 2020, it seems that more and more powerful people and businesses are being outed for their possible and definite involvement in horrific acts. With the ball now in Balenciaga’s court, the fashion industry as a whole is being questioned regarding their integrity and intentions behind their designs. 

Even so, Balenciaga’s clearly fabricated and insincere apology issued by both the brand’s Instagram and Creative Director Demna himself have further proved their ongoing ignorance. The statements consist of nonsense due to the fact that the content depicted is inexcusable within any context. However, their PR teams carefully constructed the narrative that Balenciaga had no knowledge or control over the shoot at all. In reality, Demna and his creative team have the utmost control over the subject matter and concepts of their campaigns. 

The photographer behind the shoot, Gabriele Galimberti, has issued his own statement regarding the concerning imagery, intending to distance himself from the concepts around it: “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 chose the products, nor the models, nor the combination of the same,” he says. “As a photographer, I was only and solely requested to lit the given scene, and take the shots according to my signature style.”

As well, a court case had ensued regarding not their recent campaign, but the controversy around their Spring/Summer 2023 campaign. Released on November 21st, the campaign promoting a bag from the fashion house’s collaboration with Adidas was depicted on top of court case papers. In fact, the documents appeared to be copies from the Supreme Court Case titled United States V. Williams, which upheld the PROTECT Act that was in support of increased federal protection surrounding child pornography. Again, Balenciaga upholds their position on not having knowledge of the advertisement containing anything vile. But the question remains: How did they not realize this before? This campaign came out well before the holiday campaign, so why are they only issuing a lawsuit now? The answer: To absolve themselves of any blame or guilt. The defendant, set designer Nicholas Des Jardins, upholds the view that they are “being used as a scapegoat” by the fashion house. Their agent, Gabriela Moussaieff, issued a statement when asked about it to the Washington Post: “Everyone from Balenciaga was on the shoot and was present on every shot and worked on the edit of every image in post production, were obtained from a prop house that were rental pieces used for photo shoots.” The case has since been dropped by Balenciaga, perhaps they’ve reached clarity on accepting defeat and there’s nothing to be done to explain themselves. 

It is hard to say what the future of Balenciaga will look like. With viral videos depicting ex-consumers destroying their products, from the brand and retail locations becoming stranded as opposed to their viral traffic, it is safe to assume that the throne for the next hottest brand is open. Only time will tell if this is forgotten and if the outrage is simply performative. 

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Gagni Tiwana

Toronto MU '24

English Major, Book Lover, and a Vintage Fashion Enthusiast at Toronto Metropolitan University The future chief and editor of Vogue (hopefully)