Is Balenciaga Officially Balenciagone?

Balenciaga, the designer brand known for purposely sparking conversation with its abstract and bold designs has officially taken it too far with their new campaigns.


Zoe Dakin and Natalie Farber

In November, luxury fashion brand, Balenciaga, released its new Holiday/Gift Collection advertisement campaign. The Holiday ad campaign featured children models holding teddy bears with bondage harnesses and costumes, which caused massive hate and backlash from the fashion industry. 

Five days later, Balenciaga released its Spring-Summer 2023 collection campaign. This campaign was full of items from Balenciaga’s new collection, as well as items from its collaboration with Adidas. The advertisement image that was released as a part of the campaign included documents regarding the Supreme Court’s PROTECT Act. A bag from the collaboration was photographed on top of documents from the States v. Williams case, which was a case involving prevention towards child pornography. While Balenciaga is known for its distinct designs and unconventional marketing techniques, these two campaigns have created immediate outcry across the internet and fashion industry, and not in the way they intended.

After seeing the correlation between the two advertisements, people immediately began to question Balenciaga’s intentions. The internet mainly accused the brand of allowing and excusing pedophilia and child exploitation. People believed that seeing children holding teddy bears dressed in fetish clothing was extremely inappropriate. Author Gianno Caldwell wrote, “What they learn in schools, what they see on TV and social media must be carefully monitored. The Balenciaga scandal is one of many examples of children’s innocence under attack.” The following Spring-Summer 2023 campaign was what pushed the Internet over the edge. Seeing that both advertisements had relations to child pornography convinced people that Balenciaga was exploiting children for their campaigns. People all over platforms such as TikTok and Instagram spoke out, creating #cancelBalenciaga, which now has over 1,000 posts on Instagram. To show their loathing for the brand, users were seen throwing out and ripping up their Balenciaga items in disgust over the recent scandal. 

While many people have already drawn conclusions about the brand, Balenciaga is still trying to minimize damage to their reputation. Balenciaga’s creative director, Benma, released a public apology a week later, claiming that he made the “wrong artistic choice” for the campaigns. He acknowledged the inappropriacy of having children promote objects that have nothing to do with them. Additionally, Balenciaga has begun to blame internal producers of the campaign. They have filed a $25 million lawsuit against the creators of the Spring-Summer 2023 advertising campaign for “reckless negligence.” While the brand hastily removed the photos, the damage was already done. Kim Kardashian, a reality TV star who used to have a close partnership with the brand is now re-thinking their ties. She was appalled by the advertisements, saying, “As a mother of four, I have been shaken by the disturbing images.” 

In just a few weeks, Balenciaga went from being a chic brand to a disgusting promotor of horrible ideology surrounding children. All of this controversy and backlash against Balenciaga has proven just how easily a brand can be “canceled” on the Internet. Although people across the internet and fashion industry are pretty set in their newfound disgust towards the brand, we can’t help but wonder: will Balenciaga come back? And who’s next?