default-output-block.skip-main
BoF Logo

The Business of Fashion

Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.

Kim Kardashian ‘Re-Evaluating’ Balenciaga Deal After Bondage Ad Crisis

The brand later said it was “closely revising its organisation” as it continues to face widespread backlash over a campaign featuring children modelling BDSM-inspired products.
Kim Kardashian wore Balenciaga to the 11th Annual LACMA Art + Film Gala in November 2022.
Kim Kardashian wore Balenciaga to the 11th Annual LACMA Art + Film Gala in November 2022. (Getty Images)

Kim Kardashian said she is “re-evaluating” her sponsorship deal with Kering’s Balenciaga, breaking her silence after an advertising campaign featuring children modelling BDSM-inspired products sparked a major public relations crisis.

”As a mother of four, I have been shaken by the disturbing images,” Kardashian said in a post on Instagram Sunday, explaining she had remained silent regarding Balenciaga’s controversial campaign images because she wanted to give the brand a chance to explain to her what had happened.

Balenciaga withdrew its holiday gifting campaign last week amid accusations that it was promoting the sexualisation of children. The brand’s teddy bear accessories, wearing BDSM harnesses, were a buzzy hit at its spring-summer 2023 show, but Balenciaga was widely condemned when it featured the items on children in intimate settings including on a bed. The brand apologised for the campaign and pulled the images, saying it “strongly condemn[s] abuse of children in any form.” But the move failed to diffuse the uproar.

Backlash to the problematic campaign sparked netizens to unearth supposed pedophilic messages embedded in the background of another Balenciaga campaign, its spring-summer 2023 spots featuring actress Isabelle Huppert. A print-out of a US Supreme Court decision on a child pornography laws was spotted in the background of a photograph showing its hourglass bag. The controversy landed Balenciaga a segment on Tucker Carlson’s conservative Fox News program, further fuelling public anger. On the other side of the political spectrum, Instagram account Diet Prada called the campaign “disturbing and wrong af.”

Balenciaga filed a lawsuit Friday in New York alleging North Six Inc. and set designer Nicholas Des Jardins used documents related to a child pornography case in the photos without permission. The brand is seeking at least $25 million in damages.

The public and the media “have falsely and horrifically associated Balenciaga with the repulsive and deeply disturbing subject,” the fashion house said in the court documents.

In a statement Monday, the brand further addressed the issue citing “grievous errors for which Balenciaga takes responsibility.” “Our plush bear bags and the Gift collection 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 said.

Regarding the campaign featuring Huppert, the brand said that the office setting had been staged by a third party, and that the inclusion of real documents citing a Supreme Court decision about child pornography was the result of “reckless negligence for which Balenciaga has filed a complaint.” The brand nonetheless said it takes “accountability for our lack of oversight and control.”

Under creative director Demna, Balenciaga has regularly used edgy stunts — such as marketing leather trash bags, destroyed sneakers and bedazzled platform Crocs — to fuel social media debate. In recent months, however, the brand has waded into riskier waters — provoking outrage with its choice to have rapper Ye (formerly Kanye West) open its spring-summer 2023 runway show even as the entertainer was facing criticism for incendiary statements.

The brand has since cut ties with the entertainer and asked to have images of his participation in the show scrubbed from fashion news outlets. In recent days, the brand also became fashion’s first major player to leave Twitter amid concerns that changes to content moderation by new owner Elon Musk would unleash hate speech on the platform.

Kardashian, alongside other celebrity spokespeople like Justin Bieber and Huppert, has been key to boosting awareness of Balenciaga among US consumers, who have growth for the luxury industry since the pandemic. The TV personality and Skims-founder, who divorced Ye earlier this year, has worn the brand to a string of high-profile events as well as fronting their campaigns.

The star posted on Instagram Sunday that she believes Balenciaga “understands the seriousness of the issue and will take the necessary measures for this to never happen again.””I am re-evaluating my relationship with the brand basing it off their willingness to accept accountability for something that never should have happened to begin with — and the actions I am expecting to see them take to protect children,” she wrote.

In Balenciaga’s statement Monday, the company said it was “closely revising our organisation and collective ways of working...reinforcing the structures around our creative processes and validation… [and] laying the groundwork with organisations who specialise in child protection.”

”We want to learn from our mistakes and identify ways we can contribute,” the brand said.

Learn more:

Balenciaga Apologises After Accusations It Sexualised Children in Ads

The label deleted photos featuring children holding teddy bears clad in what appeared to be bondage gear after the images generated outrage on social media.

In This Article
Topics
Organisations

© 2022 The Business of Fashion. All rights reserved. For more information read our Terms & Conditions

More from Luxury
How rapid change is reshaping the tradition-soaked luxury sector in Europe and beyond.




view more

The Business of Fashion

Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.
CONNECT WITH US ON
BoF Professional Summit - An Inflection Point in Fashion Tech
© 2023 The Business of Fashion. All rights reserved. For more information read our Terms & Conditions and Privacy policy.
BoF Professional Summit - An Inflection Point in Fashion Tech