Disturbing Balenciaga Ad Campaign Sparks Controversy Around Child Pornography

Balenciaga’s recent campaign has stirred controversy surrounding child abuse allegations and pedophilic images. In late November 2022, the brand released an advertisement for a teddy bear in bondage being held by different child models. The bears’ contention has Balenciaga scrambling for redemption. Additionally, another recent advert featuring Nicole Kidman placed case files alluding to a child pornography investigation under the actress’s purse; making their gross normalization of child sexualization abundantly clear. Celebrities associated with the brand are under pressure to reconsider their affiliation.

After the release of the disturbing ads, the public has been holding Balenciaga accountable as a result of their keeping quiet. Twitter user @thisissavvy1 re-posted an image of a child Balenciaga model holding a teddy bear in bondage gear commenting, “I thought people were trolling, but nope. It’s real. Maybe this is why Balenciaga left Twitter. They don’t want to be held accountable.” Balenciaga declined an invitation to clear the air at the Business of Fashion gala, staying consistent with their elusive behavior. Demna, the creative director of Business of Fashion, spoke out about the images, saying they were “wholly inconsistent with our values.” Balenciaga’s refusal to address the campaign is only adding to their incrimination factor. Many celebrities sponsored by the brand, such as Kim Kardashian, have already started reevaluating their ties to the company. Kardashian expressed that “as a mother of four, I have been shaken by the disturbing images.”

The brand is facing further scrutiny over a separate campaign featuring a handbag on top of clustered office papers. One of the papers was recognized as a legal document from a 2008 Supreme Court case United States v. Williams. The court ruled that distribution or pandering of child pornographic content was unconstitutional and excluded it from the protection of the First Amendment. The issue, however, is the recurring appearances of child pornographic content in Balenciaga’s ads. In a photoshoot for the same campaign, viewers noticed books by Matthew Barney and Michaël Borremans, both of which contained references and depictions of children in dark and violent places. Balenciaga briefly made claims of filing a lawsuit against set producers. The charges were almost immediately dropped, with the brand intending to no longer “pursue litigation”. 

The recent events merely uncover the ongoing exploitation of children in the music, modeling, and film industries. Youth have been persistently sexualized for profit of companies with little to no regard of the damage being dealt. The ongoing misuse of a child presence in advertisements to promote products simply provides a gateway to further normalize the hypersexualization and abuse of children. Balenciaga’s minimal effort in pursuing legitimate counteractive measures against their repugnant transgressions exposes the lack of self-accountability within these established industries. Tolerance, of any kind, for brands partaking in child exploitation continues the cycle of abuse in which children are unjustifiably violated for the purpose of money and power. The general public, especially high profile influencers, need to confront and indict companies for their repetitive moral turpitude.