Controversial Balenciaga ad campaign fallout continues as apologies are issued, profits drop, and a lawsuit is filed


One photo from “The Balenciaga Gift Shop” ad campaign features a handbag over legal documents pertaining to child pornography, seemingly suggesting the documents are irrelevant.

In November of last year, the Spanish fashion house Balenciaga announced a new campaign called “The Balenciaga Gift Shop.” In one part of this campaign, children were shown holding handbags resembling teddy bears dressed in sexual bondage gear.

An additional part of the campaign featured a photo of a handbag tossed over legal documents pertaining to child pornography laws, seemingly implying that the documents are insignificant and should be ignored.

Olympic Heights sophomore Karen Nadler, like many others, found the ad campaign somewhat disturbing, commenting, “It is very disgusting for people to promote such heinous things about children.”

During Paris Fashion Week in January, the Balenciaga teddy bears were displayed to the public. A number of models, including Bella Hadid and Minttu Vesala, were seen posing with the bears. Hadid has since taken down her photos of the event posted to her Instagram following the controversy. Neither Hadid nor Vesala have released a statement on the controversy.

Upon the campaign’s release, Twitter and TikTok quickly reacted with #cancelBalenciaga trending. The campaign also sparked outrage from the political conspiracy group QAnon. The group theorized “that a group of Satan-worshiping elites who run a child sex ring is trying to control our politics and media.”

Gabriele Galimberti, the world renowned photographer who shot some of the photos for the ad campaign, issued an apology stating, “I am not in a position to comment Balenciaga’s choices, but I must stress that I was not entitled in a whatsoever manner to neither chose the products, nor the models, nor the combination of the same.”

But that did not absolve Galimberti with most people. “Everyone involved should be blamed,” OH math teacher Keith McNeill commented. “For adults to promote such things is entirely unacceptable.”

Kim Kardashian, a long time collaborator with Balenciaga, posted to her Instagram, stating, “currently re-evaluating my relationship with the brand [Balenciaga], 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.”

Many of Kardashian’s followers were outraged with her for not totally cutting ties with Balenciaga. Some responded to Kardashian’s Instagram post stating that as a mother of four children, she should have spoken out sooner and cut ties with them all together. 

Conservative political commentator Candace Owens also came down hard on Kardashian, stating, “But no, you think we’re all so stupid that we’re going to believe that it took you some time to understand what happened. [You] needed time to process. Everybody, stop pretending that Kim Kardashian has a soul.”

The fallout from the scandal has hit Balenciaga in its proverbial pocketbook with reporting that the company’s 2022 fourth quarter revenue “suffered a 7% decline” from its third quarter revenue.

Cedric Charbit, Balenciaga’s President and CEO,  and Demna, Balenciaga’s creative director, issued an apology for the company’s ad campaign in early December of last year. The apology listed actions the company is taking by having a “listening tour to engage with advocacy groups who aim to protect children.”

Nevertheless, Balenciaga filed a lawsuit against North Six, the production company hired to produce the ad campaign. The lawsuit claims that North Six used the legal documents featured in the campaign “without Balenciaga’s knowledge or authorization.” Balenciaga is seeking $25 million in damages.