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FEMAIL reveals controversial history behind Balenciaga

Balenciaga may be facing backlash after sharing a campaign which featured a child holding a teddy bear dressed in a BDSM outfit, but it’s far from the first time the label has courted controversy.

Balenciaga was founded by Spanish monarchist Cristobal Balenciaga in 1991. The current creative director of the brand is Georgia native Demna Gvasalia. 

In 2001, the company, which quotes annual revenues of nearly two billion, was acquired by Kering from Gucci. 

The globally-renowned Spanish fashion house which dresses the likes of Kim Kardashian and Nicole Kidman, apologized for the set that featured the stuffed animals and an excerpt from the 2008 US Supreme Court opinion in United States v. Williams, which upheld part of a federal child pornography law.

Balenciaga may be facing backlash after sharing a campaign which featured a child holding a teddy bear dressed in a BDSM outfit, but it’s far from the first time the label has courted controversy

However Balenciaga has, in the past, come under fire for it’s controversial adverts and unusual marketing tactics. 

Balenciaga is typically associated with A-list celebrities such as Kim Kardashian but in the fallout from this most recent scandal, model Bella Hadid deleted an Instagram post promoting the brand, but has left several others up that promote Balenciaga.  

Here FEMAIL reveals the brand’s other jawdropping moments – from unusual casting choices and unconventional runways to shocking adverts. 

SHOCKING ADVERTS 

In January, the fashion house released a number of images as part of it's campaign celebrating the Year of the Tiger, which included a child sitting on the lap of a male model

In January, the fashion house released a number of images as part of it’s campaign celebrating the Year of the Tiger, which included a child sitting on the lap of a male model  

And in another one of the company's campaigns from this year, a number of child models can be seen posing in recreations of classic horror scenes

And in another one of the company’s campaigns from this year, a number of child models can be seen posing in recreations of classic horror scenes

In January, the fashion house released a number of images as part of it’s campaign celebrating the Year of the Tiger.   

The 57 piece collection is modelled by children and adults in a homely setting, interacting with each other as though they are family.

However the models are position in unusual poses for the images, which were taken by Chris Maggio.

In one, a child can be seen sitting on the lap of a male model, while in another, a child lies down with their head on the male model’s shoulder.

And it’s not just Balacengia which has faced controversy over it’s adverts. 

The label is owned by Kering, which owns a number of other controverisal labels, including Gucci.  

And in another one of the company’s campaigns from this year, a number of child models can be seen posing in recreations of classic horror scenes. 

From The Shining’s terrifying twin girls to Clockwork Orange and even the masked party from Eyes Wide Shut, Gucci spared no expense in bringing the scenes to life as only Gucci can.

UNCONVENTIONAL RUNWAYS  

The label's spring runway left many fashion fans shocked, after the collaboration with Adidas saw the brand dressing models in gimp masks before walking them down the runway in Paris

The label’s spring runway left many fashion fans shocked, after the collaboration with Adidas saw the brand dressing models in gimp masks before walking them down the runway in Paris

Meanwhile this summer the label's Paris Fashion Week show raised eyebrows after rapper Kanye West joined other models to trudge through mud while sporting the fashion house's latest designs.

Meanwhile this summer the label’s Paris Fashion Week show raised eyebrows after rapper Kanye West joined other models to trudge through mud while sporting the fashion house’s latest designs.

The label’s spring runway left many fashion fans shocked, after the collaboration with Adidas saw the brand dressing models in gimp masks before walking them down the runway in Paris. 

Attendees wore colourful red, blue and yellow latex masks across their face while wearing the label’s clothing.  

This summer the label’s Paris Fashion Week show also raised eyebrows after rapper Kanye West joined other models to trudge through mud while sporting the fashion house’s latest designs.

Balenciaga is known for its quirky designs but people were left perplexed by the muddy runway, as models walked down as if they were on a grim powerwalk through a wet field.

The show opened in Paris, with it girl Doja Cat in attendance, model Bella Hadid also made an appearance, as a model wearing studded facial prosthetics.

The show featured interesting designs including corsets for men and long black dresses with matching gloves.

Kayne opened the runway, almost disguised in an all black security style suit, his beard long and bedraggled looking.

The strange show was built around a wet, mud catwalk, which saw models walking through a muddy pit, covering the new designs in splatters – 

Social media users were baffled by the showcase, with some saying it was like a ‘social experiment gone wrong’.

One tweeted: ‘Imagine being a part of the Balenciaga ss23 and realising you have to walk in mud.’

One joked: ‘Balenciaga having a mud fashion show, I know it smells crazy in there.’

Another wrote: ‘The photos from the Balenciaga mud show are awful!’

BIZARRE FETISH MASKS 

Keeping it simple: Kim Kardashian completely covered up her face in an all-black head-to-toe Balenciaga ensemble including balaclava as she arrived at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City last year

Keeping it simple: Kim Kardashian completely covered up her face in an all-black head-to-toe Balenciaga ensemble including balaclava as she arrived at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City last year 

Making an entrance! The reality star was seen draped in leather and ex Kanye West's go-to zentai face mask as she arrived to the Ritz Carlton alongside her family ahead of the Met Gala

Ha! Kim Kardashian likely left the Balenciaga dinner feeling hungry after being unable to eat due to a hard-shell mask covering her mouth

Ha! Kim likely left the Balenciaga dinner feeling hungry after being unable to eat due to a hard-shell mask covering her mouth

CONTROVERSIAL HEAD STYLIST 

Balenciaga's main stylist, Lotta Volkova is no stranger to shocking the fashion world with her unusual choices (left)

Balenciaga’s main stylist, Lotta Volkova is no stranger to shocking the fashion world with her unusual choices (left) 

Among the jaw-dropping designs from Lotta is the £500 Gaultier 'naked' illusion printed dress for a jaw-dropping changing room snap

Among the jaw-dropping designs from Lotta is the £500 Gaultier ‘naked’ illusion printed dress for a jaw-dropping changing room snap 

Balenciaga’s main stylist, Lotta Volkova is no stranger to shocking the fashion world with her unusual choices. 

She was born in Russia, raised by a naval captain father before leaving to study art and design at London’s Central Saint Martins aged 17.

She relocated to Paris in 2007 and shifted her focus to styling, before she began working with designer  Demna Gvasalia.

She has since become an essential part of the creative vision behind Vetements and Balenciaga.    

Earlier this year, she shocked many by designing a naked dress for Jean Paul Gaultier which made the dresser appear totally nude. 

While the printed maxi dress completely covers the wearer, at first glance they appear naked as the dress is printed with a realistic looking crotch, bottom and breasts. 

The ‘trompe l’oeil’ number was launched a a capsule collection of pieces from the Jean Paul Gaultier archive. Also in the eccentric collection is a reimagined cone bra, first made famous by Madonna’s Blond Ambition tour in 1990.

Gaultier used trompe l’oeil – technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimension – in provocative collections throughout the nineties, often superimposing a naked body onto a dressed body. 

‘It was an incredible honour to be able to discover the archives, obsess and fetishize – reimagine the iconic Jean Paul Gaultier collections in the context of 2022 reintroducing them into a contemporary wardrobe,’ Lotta said on Instagram. 

Speaking to Vogue about the collection, Lotta said: What really struck me was this extreme eccentricity, the uncompromising vision, and celebration of and passion for culture, art, and music. It’s this awareness that forms the incredible, extravagant, and extraordinary world of Jean Paul Gaultier.’

‘A friend of mine wants to wear the nude dress with a fur coat to dinner and then take off the coat,’ she added.

She added her purpose was to ‘reframe the mischief and awesomeness’ of Gaultier’s collection for a ‘contemporary audience’.

She was also responsible for styling the viral Miu Miu campaign which was the tiny micro mini skirt be seen everywhere. 

 

While the teddy bear dressed in bondage gear might be unconventional for many brands, Balenciaga is used to dressing models and muses in unusually kinky gear.

In September last year, Kim Kardashian surprised many as she went for a completely minimalist look for the Met Gala. 

The 40-year-old mogul completely covered up her face in an all-black head-to-toe Balenciaga ensemble including balaclava as she arrived at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City

The ensemble designed by creative director Demna Gvasalia for the Paris-based high-fashion label featured several matching dark pieces including a T-Shirt dress over a curve T-Shirt with a bodysuit.

The black look had several intricate pieces despite the simplicity of its look as it also included jersey boots Pantaleggings.

The accessories were kept uniform as she also sported long gloves and a full-faced mask which kept her make-up under wraps.

Her brunette tresses poked out of the balaclava in the form of a ponytail featuring extensions which hung down to below her derriere.

And while she may have been mocked on social media for the look, she has since gone on to wear the full face mask on a number of different occasions. 

Shortly before the MET, she stepped out in a very daring leather Balenciaga look which included a zentai face covering, before checking into the Ritz Carlton.

The bodysuit was layered underneath a leather trench coat and she sported thigh high black boots and gloves while carrying a sparkly Balenciaga bag.

Her face was completely shielded by the leather face mask which had a zipper up the front and two where the eyes would be, with only her long ponytail sticking out of the back.

She wore a full face mask for a third time in July. 

The reality personality, 41, who walked for the fashion house earlier in spring 2022, joined the likes of Bella Hadid and Nicole Kidman at the star-studded dinner.

During the meal, Kim poked fun at her masked look as she held a fork up to her mouth while her bread rolls remained uneaten.  

‘OFFENSIVE’ PRODUCTS 

Meanwhile the BDSM style teddy bear bag isn’t the first controverisal product from the brand which shoppers have deemed offensive. 

Many individuals noted that Balenciaga’s $2,090 ‘Barbes East-West Shopper Bag’ resembles a bag design that originated in West Africa, informally referred to as ‘Ghana Must Go’ bags.

The bag earned the nickname during the 1980s, after ‘hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants, most of them Ghanaians’ were forced to quickly stuff their belongings into them after being given short notice to flee Nigeria, the BBC reported.

Last year, a pair of $1,190 sweatpants caused quite a stir, after multiple critics accused the design as a form of cultural appropriation.

The ‘Tropme-L’oeil’ grey sweatpants feature an exposed boxer short built-in above the waistband – a style made famous in hip hop culture during the 90s.

Critics caught wind of the controversy after TikTok user @mr200m__, whose real name is Josiah Hyacinth, posted a video mocking design at a Selfridges on September 2.

‘This feels racist. This feels very racist, guys’ Hyacinth said, while inspecting the pants. ‘They have woven these boxers inside the trousers.’

The video is captioned, ‘You know when something feels racist @sxbwxyy I have questions,’ and has garnered over 1.6 million views.

In an email statement to CNN, Marquita Gammage, an associate professor of Africana Studies at California State University, Northridge, said she was disturbed by the Balenciaga item and what she witnesses as ‘Black culture with the hopes of securing major profits,’

Gammage, who is the author of ‘Cultural Appropriation as ‘Agency Reduction” notes that the style has often ‘been used to criminalize Blacks, especially Black males as thugs and a threat to American society.’

‘Balenciaga men’s Trompe-L’Oeil sweatpants in red triggers immediate concern given the grotesque similarity to the iconic African American hip hop aesthetic worn by Black Americans for decades that has resulted in the imprisonment and death of Black men,’ Gammage added in the email to CNN. 

‘The trousers have commercial cultural appropriation written all over them; branded with the name Balenciaga.’

Many individuals also noted that Balenciaga's $2,090 ' Barbes East-West Shopper Bag' resembles a bag design that originated in West Africa, informally referred to as 'Ghana Must Go' bags

Many individuals also noted that Balenciaga’s $2,090 ‘ Barbes East-West Shopper Bag’ resembles a bag design that originated in West Africa, informally referred to as ‘Ghana Must Go’ bags

PICTURED: A model wearing the ' Tropme-L'oeil' grey sweatpants feature an exposed boxer short built-in above the waistband

The style was made famous in hip hop culture during the 90s

The ‘ Tropme-L’oeil’ grey sweatpants feature an exposed boxer short built-in above the waistband – a style made famous in hip hop culture during the 90s.

Earlier this year, Balenciaga launched a new range of £450 trainers that are full of holes, with fans mocking the range

Earlier this year, Balenciaga launched a new range of £450 trainers that are full of holes, with fans mocking the range

In an additional email to CNN, Ludivine Pont, chief marketing officer for Balenciaga, said ‘in many of our collections, we combine different wardrobe pieces into a single garment, such as denim jeans layered over tracksuit pants, cargo shorts merged with jeans and button-up shirts layered over t-shirts.’ 

UNUSUAL CASTING CHOICES 

Model mayhem: Kim posed backstage with Dua and Nicole, who wowed in rivalling ballgowns and opaque black tights

Model mayhem: Kim posed backstage with Dua and Nicole, who wowed in rivalling ballgowns and opaque black tights

The label has taken to casting reality stars and A-listers in their shows – as opposed to traditional models. 

This summer, Kim owned the catwalk with the likes of veteran supermodel Naomi Campbell, Vogue cover girl Bella pop songstress Dua Lipa, actress Nicole and Selling Sunset star Christine Quinn.

Kim posed backstage with Dua and Nicole, who wowed in rivalling ballgowns and opaque black tights.

‘These Trompe L’Oeil trousers were an extension of that vision,’ she added.

Individuals immediately responded to the design online, slamming the fashion brand for gentrifying yet another aspect of black culture.

‘Black men being discriminated against and devalued for sagging pants and Balenciaga is profiting off the style. Crazy how it’s ghetto until they put a price on it,’ user @HighestPriestess criticized the design on Twitter.  

The fashion house, popular with A-listers like Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber, in May released a new range of £1,290 ‘fully destroyed’ footwear, covered in holes and scuff marks.

Fans were quick to mock the brand after the shoes went viral when they launched.

The shoes were a limited edition version of the brand’s Paris high top trainers, which usually cost £450.

The fully destroyed versions come in black, white or brown and are littered with holes across the cotton sides, top and back.

The fashion giant’s brand name is daubed on the side of the soles to look like marker pen graffiti.

And ironically, Balenciaga says if they get dirty just ‘wipe with a soft cloth.’

Shoppers were quick to poke fun at the scruffy sneakers. One said: ‘I was having a good day until I saw this. Shaking my head.’

Another quipped: ‘I was just about to throw out my 12-year-old Vans. But I guess they are high fashion.’

Another joked: ‘Need these for my collection. Or I just won’t pay rent and in a month or so my shoes should look the same.’

One mum said: ‘Are they having a laugh?’

Another said: ‘Pre-f****d up shoes, what a world.’ 

Balenciaga sues controversial ‘BDSM teddy bear’ ad producers in $25million lawsuit as outrage continues over the photoshoot’s inclusion of SCOTUS child pornography documents as props

Balenciaga has filed a $25million lawsuit against the producers who came up with an ad campaign showing children holding teddy bears in BDSM gear for the promotion of its spring collection. 

The fashion house from Spain is suing ad production company North Six Inc., as well as set designer Nicholas Des Jardins and his own brand for including images of legal documents on the US Supreme Court’s decision on child pornography laws in the same ad campaign. 

Alleging that North Six and Des Jardins had purposefully included the judicial records in the ad without telling its executives, Balenciaga has described the move as ‘malevolent, or at the very least, extraordinarily reckless’. 

The high-end luxury brand is added that it is now looking to ‘redress for extensive damages defendants caused in connection with an advertising campaign Balenciaga hired them to produce,’ read a summons from the Manhattan Supreme Court. 

Among the clothing worn by the children’s toys in the ads are fishnet stockings, chokers, string vests and chains leading to many on social media to refer to it as ‘child porn’ and ‘disturbing.’

Perhaps the most shocking image is that of a document from a previous advertisement, pictured close to a child and tucked under a purse, the 2008 Supreme Court ruling United States v Williams which examined if laws against the promotion of child pornography were in violation of the first amendment.

Fashion brand Balenciaga is suing the producers of an ad campaign that many believe translates to child pornography, with a child holding a teddy bear dressed in a BDSM outfit

Fashion brand Balenciaga is suing the producers of an ad campaign that many believe translates to child pornography, with a child holding a teddy bear dressed in a BDSM outfit

North Six - a worldwide production company tailored to ads - is being sued by Balenciaga in a $25million lawsuit along with model photographer, Nicholas Des Jardins. Pictured: North Six's company logo

North Six – a worldwide production company tailored to ads – is being sued by Balenciaga in a $25million lawsuit along with model photographer, Nicholas Des Jardins. Pictured: North Six’s company logo 

One of the ad's photos contained an excerpt from the US Supreme Court opinion in United States v. Williams, which upheld part of a federal child pornography law, which Twitter's own fact-checkers confirmed

One of the ad’s photos contained an excerpt from the US Supreme Court opinion in United States v. Williams, which upheld part of a federal child pornography law, which Twitter’s own fact-checkers confirmed

Balenciaga, which is popular with A-list celebrities including the likes of Kim Kardashian - has deleted two shocking images showing two young girls holding a teddy bear in bondage style gear on the gift shop section of its website

Balenciaga, which is popular with A-list celebrities including the likes of Kim Kardashian – has deleted two shocking images showing two young girls holding a teddy bear in bondage style gear on the gift shop section of its website

The ruling determined that offering or requesting to transfer, sell, deliver, or trade child pornography did not violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, even if a person charged under the code did not in fact possess child pornography with which to trade. 

The late Justice Antonin Scalia noted specifically that offers to engage in illegal transactions are categorically excluded from First Amendment protection.

‘As a result of Defendants’ misconduct, members of the public, including the news media, have falsely and horrifically associated Balenciaga with the repulsive and deeply disturbing subject of the court decision,’ court documents reveal.

‘Defendants are liable to Balenciaga for all harm resulting from this false association.’ 

Ads were initially released over Paris Fashion Week at the end of September, start of October and were intended to boost the fashion house’s spring 2023 collection.  

As of last week, Balenciaga did not only delete all of its posts related to ads for its Spring 2023 collection on Instagram but also wiped out its entire page

As of last week, Balenciaga did not only delete all of its posts related to ads for its Spring 2023 collection on Instagram but also wiped out its entire page

On Tuesday, Balenciaga publicly apologized and announced that it will be swiping off the ad from all of its social media profiles. 

‘We sincerely apologize for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused. Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign. We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms,’ the high-end luxury house shared on Instagram. 

DailyMail.com has reached out to Balenciaga for comment on the lawsuit. 

Balenciaga issued a public apology on its Instagram profile last week, before deleting its social media history

Balenciaga issued a public apology on its Instagram profile last week, before deleting its social media history

Prior to the lawsuit, the brand had previously stated that it will pursue legal action against those found to be responsible for the scandal surrounding the controversial ad

Prior to the lawsuit, the brand had previously stated that it will pursue legal action against those found to be responsible for the scandal surrounding the controversial ad

Earlier this month, the Paris-based company said that its controversial ad ‘iterates on the artist’s series Toy Stories, an exploration of what people collect and receive as gifts,’ according to a press release. 

It went on to say that it would feature ‘dozens of new products ranging from homeware, pet wear and scent, from everyday items to limited-edition collectibles and bespoke furniture.’ 

Some of the pictures were shot by Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti, who is perhaps best known for his work with National Geographic. On his Instagram page, Galimberti issued an apology saying that he was not in creative control of the shoot and merely was in charge of lighting.

He said: ‘I am not in a position to comment [on] Balenciaga’s choices, but I must stress that I was not entitled in whatsoever manner to neither chose (sic) the products, nor the models, nor the combination of the same.’

Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti, who worked on the photoshoot featuring the BDSM teddy bears, stressed that he wasn't 'entitled in whatsoever manner to neither chose (sic) the products, nor the models, nor the combination of the same'

Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti, who worked on the photoshoot featuring the BDSM teddy bears, stressed that he wasn’t ‘entitled in whatsoever manner to neither chose (sic) the products, nor the models, nor the combination of the same’

Galimberti promoted the images as part of a project series he called 'Toy Stories,' in an apparent reference to the Disney/Pixar film series

Galimberti promoted the images as part of a project series he called ‘Toy Stories,’ in an apparent reference to the Disney/Pixar film series

Galimberti continued: ‘As a photographer, I was only and solely requested to lit (sic) the given scene, and take the shots according to my signature style.

‘As usual, the direction of the campaign and of the shooting are not on the hands of the photographer.’

He concluded: ‘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. Lynching like these are addressed against wrong targets, and distract from the real problem, and criminals.’

Galimberti also said that he had nothing to do with the photos of the Supreme Court documents.

Meanwhile, the father of a British child model who posed in the campaign has defended the photoshoot, previously telling DailyMail.com that his daughter had a ‘fantastic time’ on set. 

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk



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