Balenciaga’s Two Campaigns That Spurred Online Controversy

Balenciaga Released Two Campaigns That Spurred Online Controversy

What is going on in Balenciaga? The luxury fashion house who is known for its controversial designs has been trending on social media of late – From Twitter to Instagram and it’s not trending in a good way.

The brand recently released two campaigns that have a queue of controversy, accused of child abuse, and faced with lawsuits, and with the list of statements issued had us all wondering what’s actually going on.

On Nov 16th, 2022, Balenciaga released a campaign shot by Gabriele Galimberti. The campaign seems to be a holiday campaign that is set to promote Giftable products like homeware, petwear, scent, collectibles, and furniture. This campaign is circled around children that were dressed in the Balenciaga Kids line, in what is known as an extension of Galimberti’s existing Toy Stories series. The styling in this campaign featured children carrying handbags of teddy bears wearing harnesses and posing among empty wine glasses, social media accused the brand of sexualizing minors and putting them in inappropriate positions.

On Nov 21st, 2022, another campaign was released, this time it was the fashion house’s Spring 2023 campaign, an office-themed image shot by Joshua Bright, the campaign featured props strewn around a desk with a printed copy of the 2008 United States v. Williams decision on child pornography laws. This set the media on fire! where Balenciaga and #Balenciagagate became a trend online. What set the trend ablaze is the involvement of controversial figures such as Andrew Tate, Oli London, and conservative commentators like Candace Owens and Tucker Carlson caused more attention to the two campaigns.

Balenciaga took it to Instagram with a statement that reads:

“We sincerely apologize for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused,” the brand wrote. “Our Plus Bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign. We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms.”

A second apology followed, specifically for its Spring 2023 campaign — which, according to the Washington Post, was photographed in July: “We apologize for displaying unsettling documents in our campaign. We are taking this matter very seriously and are taking legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set and including unapproved items for our Spring ’23 campaign photoshoot. We strongly condemn the abuse of children in any form. We stand for children safety and well-being.”

As of the time of this article, Balenciaga had deleted all content from its Instagram handle with only the apology statement left.

Galimberti, the photographer responsible for the holiday campaign shot, had issued a statement on his Instagram account an image that says ‘Statement’ with a caption that reads;

Following the hundreds of hate mails and messages I received as a result of the photos I took for the Balenciaga campaign, I feel compelled to make this statement.

I am not in a position to comment 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.

As a photographer, I was only and solely requested to lit the given scene, and take the shots according to my signature style.
As usual for a commercial shooting, the direction of the campaign and the choice of the objects displayed are not in the hands of the photographer.

I suspect that any person prone to pedophilia searches on the web and has unfortunately a too easy access to images completely different than mine, absolutely explicit in their awful content. Accusations like these are addressed against wrong targets, and distract from the real problem, and criminals.

Also, I have no connection with the photo where a Supreme Court document appears. That one was taken in another set by other people and and was falsely associated with my photos.

Gabriele Galimberti