The scandalous campaign of the fashion house Balenciaga that seemingly promotes pedophilia has left millions of people around the world speechless. One of the most luxurious brands has made the promotion of new products in an unacceptable way, with advertising campaign with photos of children holding toys with sado-masochistic details, court records of child pornography and highlighting the name of the controversial Belgian painter Michaël Borremans, whose works include images of castrated children. On the other hand, the famous fashion house distanced itself from everything in a very unskillful way, pointing out that they had no control over what happened. Needless to say, the brand quickly pulled the ads and is now condemning the controversial campaign.
Gabriele Galimberti was the author of the controversial photos, but he emphasized that he was only doing what he was asked to do.
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. – Gabriel Galimberti
According to him, he was only allowed to light the prepared scene and take photos with his “stylish signature”, but he noted that “the direction of the campaign and the choice of objects shown” were not under his control. Almost every person who saw those photos expressed numerous criticisms on their account because of sexual fetishization and child abuse. Galimberti pointed out that the lynching is aimed at the wrong side and distracts attention from the real problem and the criminals. He also noted that he did not photograph the child pornography court documents.
Namely, the most shocking part of the Balenciaga advertising campaign is a photo with court records, i.e. the judgment of the Supreme Court from 2008, which established that the laws against the promotion of child pornography do not contradict the First Amendment. The lawsuit was filed Monday in Manhattan Supreme Court and says the fashion brand wants to recover damages caused by the ad campaign. Balenciaga distances itself from the scandal, but takes responsibility.
Another “accidental mistake” was the depiction of French actress Isabelle Huppert posing in a Manhattan office with a stack of books behind her. Among them was a reading celebrating the Belgian painter Michaël Borremans, whose work is diverse but often features children in his paintings. In some of his pictures, children are castrated, covered in blood or more. However, Balenciaga has not yet reflected on that particular moment in the advertising campaign.
Also, before the statement of the photographer Galimberti, the brand published the following statement on Instagram:
On Monday, representatives of the brand filed a lawsuit against the production company that created the disturbing advertising campaign. They underline that they deliberately included the court files in the advertisement, without informing the managers about it. Following the scandal, a vast number of fans started acussing brand’s stylist and close friend Lotta Volkova for being the main character in the making of the campaign. Her style is largely rooted in punk culture, and now many are labeling her as the main culprit of the controversial campaign, given that she has previously “flirted” with troubling themes.
What’s Next for Balenciaga?
After releasing the official statements and filing lawsuits against the production company, Balenciaga is still in hot water, and will probably be for a long time, given that people are calling models and brand’s supporters like Bella Hadid, who already unfollowed the brand and scrubbed all Balenciaga related pictures from her Instagram, Kim Kardashian who released a statement hoping Balenciaga will work on it’s mistakes, Nicole Kidman and more to cut ties with the brand. Also, Demna was supposed to receive the Global VOICES Award awarded by Business of Fashion during their annual BoF Voices gathering, but they’ve rescinded the award. The magazine, dedicated to the world of fashion, even wanted to give an opportunity to Demna and Balenciaga to take responsibility for releasing the images and offer an explanation but the brand declined. The future definetly does not look bright for Balenciaga, given that social media channels are filled with disgust over the campaigns and brand’s “provocative” marketing strategy. The long-term repercussions remain to be seen.
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