By: Aliya Koshalieva
Balenciaga, the famed luxury fashion house, is facing a backlash over their two newest campaigns. The “gift shop” campaign featured toddlers holding teddy bears wearing BDSM gear, some surrounded by collars. The second campaign was an office-themed “Garde-Robe” that featured the Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition supreme court case. The case struck down portions of the 1996 Child Pornography Prevention Act (CPPA). The CPPA says that virtual child pornography is protected speech. The campaigns, both shot by Gabriele Galimberti, have been labeled controversial, as many claimed the photos promoted the sexualization and exploitation of children.
Along with the backlash, several conspiracy theories developed, spreading like wildfire, taking several social media platforms including TikTok and Twitter by storm.
Social media users allegedly found hidden satanic references within the photos from the campaign, such as pictures of the devil and references to Satan himself. Several users have connected the campaigns with the conspiracy theory that some celebrities sell their souls to the devil for instant fame. These users claim that because they sold their souls, they include subliminal messages about the devil in their works. Some conspiracy theories go as far as to accuse the Hollywood Elite of being satan-worshiping pedophiles. Other theories lean on QAnon’s beliefs, like the infamous Pizzagate Theory that alleges that a Washington D.C pizza restaurant is the center of a child-trafficking ring run by top U.S politicians.
Balenciaga has come forward and offered an apologetic statement regarding the campaigns. “We strongly condemn child abuse” the company stated. “It was never our intent to include it in our narrative…This was a wrong choice by Balenciaga, combined with our failure in assessing and validating images. The responsibility for this lies with Balenciaga alone.” Many celebrities have cut ties with the company, including Bella Hadid, Gianno Caldwell, Kim Kardashian, Bethenny Frankel, and more. Other celebrities who have not commented are under fire for not speaking out against the company. However, some social media users branded some of the apologies as insincere. Galimberti, the photographer, has broken his silence and distanced himself from the campaigns. He explained, “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 [choose] the products, nor the models, nor the combination of the same.”
(Sources: New York Times, US Weekly, Washington Post)