Demna is the one who took over in 2015 and boosted the brand to be a darling of celebrities and models. Business of Fashion said they tried to engage with Balenciaga over the scandal, but the brand declined that invitation.
The ad campaign for Spring 2023 showed images of children clutching teddy bears in bondage gear, and one image was accompanied by a background of documents, which were from a Supreme Court ruling on child pornorgraphy.
One of the books in the background of another ad was also disturbing as it was a celebration of the work of a Belgian artist "whose work depicts toddler castration," The Daily Mail reports.
Demna is not the only creative with Balenciaga to come under fire. Chief designer Lotta Volkova has used her Instagram to post images of what appears to be Satan worship, child torture, and exploitation. Lotta worked with Demna until 2017.
Those images, found on her social media pages, resulted in Volkova turning her account to private. A spokesperson for Balenciaga said that she "has not worked with Balenciaga or its team since 2017 and she has in no way participated in the brand’s recent Instagram or advertising campaigns."
The event during which Demna would have received the award begins on Wednesday.
"Since its inception, BoF VOICES has been a platform for important, honest and sometimes uncomfortable conversations that have helped to address key issues in the fashion industry head on," a statement issued by Business of Fashion began.
"Earlier this year, we invited Balenciaga's creative director Demna to BoF VOICES to receive our Global VOICES Award for 2022," BoF continued.
"At BoF, we hold the safety of children in the highest regard. And like many, we have been seeking the truth about how children appeared with BDSM-inspired products in Balenciaga's recent campaign images, which are wholly inconsistent with our values. As a result, we will not be presenting Demna with the Global VOICES Award this year.
"Nonetheless," they continue, "we asked the leadership at Balenciaga to come to VOICE to take responsibility for releasing these images and offer an explanation. They declined our invitation to speak at this time, but BoF remains open to having this important conversation."
Balenciaga issued their own remarks after the controversy surfaced, saying that they would sue the ad creator North Six over the inclusion of the court documents in the campaign. North Six said they were made to take the fall.
An agent for set director Nicholas Des Jardin said "Everyone from Balenciaga was on the shoot and was present on every shot and worked on the edit of every image in post-production."
"All the items included in this shooting were provided by third parties that confirmed in writing these props were fake...they turned out to be real most likely coming from the filming of a television drama. The inclusion of these unapproved documents was the result of reckless negligence for which Balenciaga has filed a complaint," Balenciaga said on Monday.
"We take full accountability for our lack of oversight and control of the documents in the background and we could have done things differently," they continued.
"We apologize for displaying unsettling documents in our campaign," they said. "We take 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 abuse of children in any form. We stand for children’s safety and well-being."
Gabriele Galimberti was the photographer, who worked with National Geographic and created a series called "Toy Stories," showing children surrounded by their favorite toys.
The court documents were from a 2002 Supreme Court case, Ashcroft v Free Speech Coalition, which stated that the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 was too broad, and a violation of freedom of speech where it concerned computer-generated images or adults portraying minors
Those who tried to complain to Balenciaga on Twitter found that the account had been deleted.
Kim Kardashian, who has been an ambassador for the brand, issued a milquetoast statement. "I believe they understand the seriousness of the issue and will take the necessary measures for this to never happen again," Kardashian said.
"I have been quiet for the past few days," she said on Twitter, whose CEO has said eradicating child exploitation images on the platform is a number one priority, "not because I haven't been disgusted and outraged by the Balenciaga campaigns, but because I wanted an opportunity to speak to their team to understand for myself how this could have happened."
"As a mother of four," she wrote, "I have been shaken by the disturbing images. The safety of children must be held with the highest regard and any attempts to normalize child abuse of any kind should have no place in our society—period."
"I appreciate Balenciaga's removal of the campaigns and apology," Kardashian continued, though the company only did this after backlash erupted against them online from those concerned that the luxe brand was actually promoting the exploitation of children. "In speaking with them," she went on, "I believe they understand the seriousness of the issue and will take the necessary measures for this to never happen again."
"As for my future with Balenciaga," Kardashian said, addressing the elephant in the room, "I am currently re-evaluating my relationship with the brand, basing it off their willingness to accept accountability for something that should have never happened to begin with—& the actions I am expecting to see them take to protect children."
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