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  • Writer's picturewendistrauchmahoney

Don't Be Fooled by Balenciaga

Updated: Apr 28

Balenciaga, the French luxury fashion house, and the Kering Foundation announced plans for a partnership with the National Children's Alliance (NCA) in early February. The Kering Foundation is funded by Balenciaga's parent company the Kering Group. Unfortunately, the CEO of the Kering Group continues to promote products that are abusive to children. So why would the NCA, an organization that says it wants to "heal children" wish to associate itself with an organization like Balenciaga and its parent company? Is Balenciaga sincere in its wish to remediate or is this just a ploy to distract and hope the public moves on and returns to buying its bags?

Kering Group

François-Henri Pinault is the chairman and CEO of Kering since 2005, and has been president of Groupe Artémis since 2003. His wife is starlet Selma Hayek. It is a little-known fact, however, that Kering owns an auction website where disturbing child sex mannequins are sold at exorbitant prices. The pieces are the work of brothers Jake and Dinos Chapman. According to Evie Magazine,

"One piece of art, which costs $140,000, is called F*ck Face. It's a male toddler with an erect penis in place of his nose and an anus in place of his mouth. The piece of art shows the boy walking with a large brown t-shirt on and purple sneakers. Another piece of art with the same title F*ck Face shows an adolescent girl standing completely naked with the same genitalia in place of her nose and mouth. She's wearing nothing but a pair of black sneakers."

The fact that Balenciaga's parent company continues to promote content abusive to children makes one wonder just how heartfelt this three-year partnership with NCA really is.

Starbuck Exposes Balenciaga Ad Campaigns Featuring Demonic Content with Minors founder, Landon Starbuck's posts on social media exposed Balenciaga's horrific advertising campaign featuring "demonic" and abusive imagery showcasing minors in late Fall, 2022.

Among the disturbing images, were very young children and minors shown toting teddy bears dressed in bondage in one of the campaigns. At the time Starbuck stated the fashion giant was "making it fashionable to fetishize and destroy the innocence of children." According to the Daily Wire, "Balenciaga debuted the handbag line last October at the runway show in Paris, where models walked the catwalk with bruised faces and bloody noses carrying the teddy bears." The advertising was part of its "Toy Stories" campaign.

Another separate campaign for their 2023 Spring Collection "was meant to replicate a business office environment" but included a photo of what Balenciaga stated in its apology letter were "fake office documents" that turned out to be "real legal papers" that were the "result of reckless negligence" on the part of an unknown person or entity. Comments on both campaigns are featured in Starbuck's post below:

Pressure from Starbuck may have prompted Balenciaga's apology, a step in the right direction. The company stated it takes "full accountability for [its] lack of oversight and control fo the documents in the background and should have done things differently." Balenciaga's letter of apology also "strongly condemned child abuse" and stated it "was never their intent to include it in the narrative." Please read the full apology statement here.

However, parts of their statement referencing intention stretch credulity. Advertising campaigns are always well-calculated both in messaging and cost, requiring multiple approvals up the chain. It is very unlikely the team and others behind the campaigns were unaware of the visual and emotional impact of the content. Those statements alone indicate the apology may be disingenuous at best. There really is no other way to internalize the narrative telegraphed in the visuals of those two ad campaigns.

And, while this partnership may be a good sign, Nordstrom and other retailers are still carrying Balenciaga merchandise.

Balenciaga has since taken down the related abusive posts. Balenciaga also deleted its Twitter account entirely or perhaps it was removed due to the content.

Who is NCA?

Among NCA's priorities are "healing kids," diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and the support and funding of CACs or Children’s Advocacy Centers numbering around 800 nationwide to support children, families, and communities with "science-backed mental health services and support early on." The Alliance uses what is called Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Training (TF-CBT) to address mental health issues, an early intervention model targeting 7-18-year-old minors. The treatment model is relatively short-term in nature and implemented within 30 to 45 days following the traumatic event. It is interesting, however, that the treatment does not seem to prioritize the inclusion of parents in the treatment of the child.

The most burning question to ask is why would an organization like NCA choose to partner with Balenciaga when the Kering Group and those associated with it are involved with images and products related to the abuse of innocent children. You would think that if it truly had a serious interest in the well-being of children, NCA might have pressured Balenciaga to wholeheartedly rebrand itself, severing all ties with abusive material that is hurtful to children and families.

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