Season 8 New Release: My special guest investigative journalist William Ramsey is here to discuss public outrage over a Balenciaga campaign that many viewed as support for horrific child abuse.
Child advertising controversy
In November 2022, an advertising campaign posted on Balenciaga's Instagram account featured children holding teddy bears dressed in bondage and BDSM gear. Balenciaga later apologized after heavy criticism and removed all posts connected to the photo campaign. Meanwhile, the photographer, Gabriele Galimberti, said that both the children and the objects which appeared in the photos were all selected by Balenciaga. Hours later, Balenciaga apologized for a separate, earlier advertisement, in which a $3,000 Balenciaga handbag sits amongst papers which include the text from a Supreme Court opinion in the Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition child pornography case. Balenciaga announced that it was taking legal action against the production company North Six and set designer Nicholas Des Jardins, responsible for the advertisement with the child pornography court document, for $25 million. In response, the set designer's attorney said that Balenciaga representatives were present at the shoot, and handled the papers and props used. Balenciaga dropped their legal action on December 2.
In another image, featuring the actress Isabelle Huppert, two art books can be seen in the background: one is based on The Cremaster Cycle (1994–2002) by the filmmaker Matthew Barney and one is As Sweet as It Gets (2014) by the Belgian painter Michaël Borremans. Some Twitter users tried to connect imagery from Barney's and Borremans' works to the court document, and based on this suggested there was a hidden message about child abuse in Balenciaga's marketing material.