Leading Fashion Industry Publication Revokes Top Award From Balenciaga After Child Photo Shoot Scandal
Close-up of signage for the Balenciaga upscale shoe boutique on Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York City, New York, September 15, 2017.
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The Business of Fashion announced in a statement Monday afternoon that they were revoking a top award that they gave to Balenciaga’s creative director over Balenciaga’s recent scandal involving young children who appeared in a photo shoot with “BDSM-inspired products.”

Balenciaga, which celebrities like Kim Kardashian often wear, displayed images on its website last week as part of its “Toy Stories” campaign. The photos showed child models posing with the brand’s teddy bear handbags, with the bears dressed in BDSM-themed gear from its Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2023 collection.

“Since its inception, BoF VOICES has been a platform for important, honest and sometimes uncomfortable conversations that have helped to address key issues in the fashion industry head on,” Business of Fashion said in a statement. “Earlier this year, we invited Balenciaga’s creative director Demna to BoF VOICES to receive our Global VOICES Award for 2022.”

“At BoF, we hold the safety of children in the highest regard,” the statement continued. “And like many, we have been seeking the truth about how children appeared with BDSM-inspired products in Balenciaga’s recent campaign images, which are wholly inconsistent with our values. As a result, we will not be presenting Demna with the Global VOICES Award this year.”

“Nonetheless, we asked the leadership at Balenciaga to come to VOICES to take responsibility for releasing these images and offer an explanation,” the statement concluded. “They declined our invitation to speak at this time, but BoF remains open to having this important conversation.”

Balenciaga responded to the ongoing scandal on Monday by saying that it could have “done things differently.”

The company said it “strongly condemns child abuse; it was never our intent to include it in our narrative” and the two separate ad campaigns represented “a series of grievous errors.”

“The first campaign, the gift collection campaign, featured children with plush bear bags dressed in what some have labelled BDSM- inspired outfits,” the statement said. “Our plush bear bags and the gift collection should not have been featured with children. This was a wrong choice by Balenciaga, combined with our failure in assessing and validating images. The responsibility for this lies with Balenciaga alone.”

“The second, separate campaign for Spring 2023, which was meant to replicate a business office environment, included a photo with a page in the background from a Supreme Court ruling ‘United States v. Williams’ 2008 which confirms as illegal and not protected by freedom of speech the promotion of child pornography,” the statement continued. “All the items included in this shooting were provided by third parties that confirmed in writing that these props were fake office documents. They turned out to be real legal papers most likely coming from the filming of a television drama. The inclusion of these unapproved documents was the result of reckless negligence for which Balenciaga has filed a complaint. We take full accountability for our lack of oversight and control of the documents in the background and we could have done things differently.”

Balenciaga said it took several steps to correct what happened so it doesn’t happen again, including revising work and approval processes and working with organizations that “specialize in child protection and aims at ending child abuse and exploitation.”

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