In November 2022, Balenciaga released two campaigns that ignited great controversy within the fashion industry and beyond. The fallout first began when Balenciaga released a new campaign: The Balenciaga Gift Shop. Photographs revealed six children carrying teddy bear purses dressed in bondage costumes. Just 5 days later, Balenciaga’s 2023 Garde-Robe advertising campaign released photographs bringing this outrage to social media attention. Images starring Bella Hadid, Nicole Kidman, and Isabelle Hubert became the topic of discussion when a printed copy of the 2008 United States v. Williams Supreme Court ruling was used as a prop. This case was a federal protection law against the advertisement, distribution, and promotion of child pornography. News swept across Twitter, Tik Tok, Instagram, and more accusing Demna, the artistic director for both campaigns, and Balenciaga, of supporting and condoning child exploitation. Even after apologies from Demna and Balenciaga CEO Cédric Charbit, social media has not reacted lightly to the scandal.
This week, I asked Bedford High School students what they had to say about the controversy as well as what they believed the future of Balenciaga would look like as a result.
Sophomore, Bridget Backer, says Balenciaga’s future “will probably stay the same, if not gain profit, because of the publicity the company is getting. As they say, ‘bad publicity is still publicity.’ So I think that although this may tarnish the image of the company, many people shopping at designer brands, like Balenciaga, are oblivious to the social issues around them. I am truly outraged and frustrated by this scandal.”
Senior, Kenzy Bibawi, explains to us her perspective: “This is absolutely disgusting, but it’s the reality of the fashion industry. I most certainly do not support this, but it has been seen in similar instances with several other brands that break the boundaries of right and wrong for the sake of publicity. It’s rancid, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see more.”
Sophomore, Navya Rai, expresses her opinion on the controversy: “I think the future of Balenciaga will go downhill. Especially with our generation, these types of feuds and scandals have a greater impact through social media, protests, etc. than ever seen before.”
Junior, Aparna Thandapani, shares her view with us: “Child pornography is a very real, and dangerous thing, and why would Balenciaga subject their business to something of this nature? I would not be surprised if Balenciaga experiences a major decline in their supporters.”
Sophomore Rhea Dogra explains that this scandal “normalizes child exploitation, which really should not be normalized in this day and age.”
I interviewed several other BHS students, many of which shared very similar opinions on the matter.
After experiencing great backlash from celebrities and other people all over social media, Balenciaga immediately removed both campaigns from all their platforms. Still, many celebrities who previously had a close relationship with Balenciaga, have begun to rethink their decision. The company is in great danger as this outrage will follow them for years to come.