When the name Balenciaga comes up, many people would have various thoughts about the luxurious fashion brand. While some would focus on the fact that the brand is synonymous with A-list status and disposable wealth, others tuned into fashion news and scandals recall the brand was involved in a slew of controversies that nearly ended its legacy. Although Balenciaga, like many luxury brands, is prone to being in a scandal or two, the brand took several significant blows in 2022.
At the time, its creative director, Demna Gvsalla, received demands that Balenciaga be canceled, though, as with many things in the entertainment industry, that's seemingly changed.
After nearly 13 months of making headlines for nothing but, for all intents and purposes, negative press, Balenciaga has turned over a new leaf, even getting Kim Kardashian back into the fold.
So, how did Balenciaga nearly lose everything? A look at the brand's history of scandals and its presumed comeback.
Balenciaga was nearly canceled after using *suggestive* photography with children
Though Balenciaga's legacy includes the brand, created by Cristobal Balenciaga, a runway staple, the brand has long been criticized by fashion critics, such as Cathryn Horn at The Cut, for numerous years. However, in 2022, Balenciaga was the subject of a social media firestorm, unlike what its competitors and the fashion industry previously witnessed.
The controversy began in November 2022 during Balenciaga's holiday campaign.
The photos for the campaign featured children holding teddy bears in bondage harnesses and costumes. In its report on the controversy, The Cut shared Balenciaga used the same BDSM accessories and costumes on its runway show at Paris Fashion Week that same year. Following the campaign's release, social media users on TikTok and Twitter slammed the brand's efforts and immediately began a campaign to #cancelBalenciaga.
In addition to the fallout from its campaign, including criticisms from right-wing conservatives who shamed the brand for photos that were found to be taken out of context, Balenciaga was also involved in another scandal. According to Hypebeast, Balenciaga also launched another campaign, this time involving "SCOTUS documents regarding child pornography laws." Due to the brand's perceived fascination with child sex crimes, social media users heavily criticized Demna for highlighting pedophilia in his work.
Balenciaga's backlash quickly transitioned from online to affecting the celebrities who aligned themselves with the brand. Shortly after accepting a role as Balenciaga's brand ambassador, Kim Kardashian shared on Instagram and Twitter that she was reevaluating her partnership with the fashion house and said she was "outraged" by its campaigns.
“I have been quiet for the past few days, not because I haven’t been disgusted and outraged by the recent Balenciaga campaigns,” Kim shared with her followers.
Kim Kardashian and other celebrities have seeming forgiven Balenciaga.
Julia Fox, who had also been photographed wearing Balenciaga heavily before the scandal, also scolded it online. The model said the "horrific" videos made her "sick to my stomach" and shared she no longer had any ties to the brand. However, over one year after the scandal, Kim seems to have changed her mind about Demna's creative decisions.
In January 2024, Kim announced a new partnership with Balenciaga as a brand ambassador and celebrated the new role by modeling the brand's Closet Campaign. One month before Kim's announcement, she, along with fellow Balenciaga ambassador Nicole Kidman, Kendall Jenner, Lissa Rinna, Lil Wayne, and more celebs, attended Balenciaga's Fall 2024 runway show, which included Cardi B closing out the show in a fabulous blue fur coat.
Disney Plus partnered with Balenciaga for a series about its founder, Cristobal Balenciaga.
Balenciaga's road to redemption also includes a TV show about the brand's founder, Cristobal Balenciaga. On Jan. 19, 2024, Disney Plus UK released a series following Cristobal's rise to fashion superstardom, with actor Alberto San Juan playing Crisobal, who died in 1972. According to the series' website, Cristobal Balenciaga takes place during Cristobal's process of showing his"first Parisian haute couture collection in 1937."
The partnership with Disney Plus — a popular streaming service for children – took a more positive approach to Balenciaga's legacy. The question was raised again after Balenciaga's Fall 2024 runway show, with many online users wondering how the brand has been saved from permanent cancellation.
While Demna hasn't addressed the cancellation complaints directly, the creative director has acknowledged Balenciaga's past mistakes and apologized for his role in the 2022 scandals. In 2023, Demna opened his Winter 2023 fashion show with a message to his supporters. The note, obtained by The Cut, included Demna stating he had to regroup and take a more mature approach to the work he puts out moving forward.
"Fashion has become a kind of entertainment,” he shared. “In the last couple of months, I needed to seek shelter with my love affair with fashion and I instinctively found it in the process of making clothes.” He added: “This is why fashion, to me, can no longer be seen as entertainment, but rather as the art of making clothes.”
The Balenciaga scandal further proves cancel culture, as social media knows it, is nuanced, especially regarding fashion, darling.