Balenciaga, Exploiting Children Is Not a Fashion Statement

Gabriella Alvarez, Copy Editor

On Nov. 21, Balenciaga dropped its holiday campaign and a tremendous amount of backlash followed.

The advertisement faced major controversy because it featured children holding teddy bears dressed in bondage harnesses, which are often linked to sexual fetish culture. Following the release of the advertisement campaign, people took to social media to criticize the brand for exploiting children. Balenciaga, along with celebrities who support the brand, stayed silent while the hashtag #cancelBalenciaga trended across the internet.

Balenciaga’s advertisements focused on their spring and summer 2023 collection, featuring a new bag in collaboration with Adidas. However, viewers noticed that the papers the bag was photographed on were documents from the Supreme Court case United States v. Williams, which enforced protection against child pornography. Along with past concerns of the brand voiced by various celebrities, it is apparent that something is not right and it is hard for one to believe this is all just a coincidence.

For such a distinguished high-end brand, one would expect them to fully inspect their products before releasing them to the world. Regardless of what Balenciaga claims their intentions were, the campaign sends an underlying message supporting the exploitation of children and it is not the first time this has occurred. 

There is no reason that the holiday campaign should have been permitted. Children of such young ages should not have been photographed alongside props with BDSM accessories. Although Balenciaga admits to having committed a series of errors, they initially deflected their mistakes by filing a $25 million lawsuit against North Six and Jardins, claiming they were unaware of the court documents in the shoot.

Balenciaga had to have known that there would be negative connotations regarding the teddy bears. After all, there is an infinite amount of more appropriate options for a photo shoot containing children. The teddy bears could have been wearing anything else, yet the brand chose something extremely inappropriate.

Unfortunately, this, along with other posts, does not highlight the positive image of the brand. The protection of children should have come first, and the fact that it never once crossed their minds until people voiced their concerns says a lot about the brand itself. It should not take a grave error such as this to teach a well-esteemed brand the importance and limitations needed to protect children from exploitation. 

Whether Balenciaga’s intentions were honorable or not, it is time to notice the continuous mistakes they have made concerning the safety of children. Balenciaga has to get it into their head – exploiting children is not a fashion statement.