Know where you buy: A lesson learned from Balenciaga controversy


Karrington Garland, Opinions Editor

Balenciaga, the trendsetter of both handbags and clothing, is under immense scrutiny due to its most recent campaign release in early November. The ads featured children holding or around stuffed animals wearing bondage outfits; the whole campaign, to put it plainly, came across horrifyingly pedophilic.

To make matters worse, on Nov. 21, the brand dropped an ad for their upcoming collection next year for both spring and summer, which featured a bag from the collection on top of documents containing the ruling of United States v. Williams, a Supreme Court case that referenced the PROTECT Act, which criminalizes promoting child pornography, even if the material itself is not a form of child pornography.

The fact that Balenciaga, a couple days after their initial controversial post, dropped an ad containing this case is alarming. Brands should never perpetuate or promote this kind of disgusting content, especially this boldly.

In light of this, I think a reflection is needed. With the bombardment of celebrities and social media influencers, adorning themselves in high end, trendy or niche brands, we as consumers feel the desire to buy in ways to emulate them.

Whether unintentionally or intentionally, the clothes we wear, the personas we adopt over time, all derive from the people and idols we find ourselves following. And with this following comes the tiny loyalty to the brands they promote.

Balenciaga developed a large following over the years from Kanye West’s and Kim Kardashian’s involvement and promotion of the brand. Both wore items from this fashion house at numerous public events over the last couple of years, and if I’m being honest, I never knew of the brand before the Kardashians started wearing it.

However, I do not think Kim Kardashian’s recent tweet and slight loyalty to the brand is enough to keep it afloat. This is something hard to recover from and demands a thorough re-examination of the brand, its leadership and the things that it stands for.

It also calls into question the troubling ease in which Balenciaga posted this disgusting content and believed they would get away with it. This is normalized when it isn’t and should never be, and subliminal messaging like this is dangerous, especially when children cannot speak for and defend themselves against this issue.

I think it is important to educate yourself about the brands you buy from. Especially when so many fashion brands date back years, like Balenciaga, which originated in 1917 by designer Cristobal Balenciaga.

And although the average person is not buying from high end or luxury brands in their everyday lives, it is still important to be aware of the institutions you give support to – which, I admit is hard. None of us saw this coming, but I am glad that the brand was hasty in its decision to take down the campaign.

I hope this incident serves as a reminder that brands that perpetuate, promote or allude to content like these campaigns or any other controversial messaging understand that it is not okay and should never be normalized.