Students at the American University in Dubai would be ashamed to buy and wear Balenciaga products following the brand’s scandalous Gift Shop campaign, according to a survey and series of interviews conducted by Frankly at the university.
The campaign featured children cuddling teddy bear bags featuring fetish bondage gear, while surrounded by alcohol and cigarettes, as well as Supreme Court documents upholding a law criminalizing child sexual abuse images.
The pieces, including the teddy bear bags, were part of the Balenciaga Kids line.
Nearly all 50 students (48) surveyed said they would be “ashamed” to buy and wear Balenciaga products.
“I think it was classic lack of care while glamorizing the horrors of paedophilia,” one student told us. “This would give a lot of actual victims’ horrific flashbacks and reminders of things that have happened to them and downplays the fact that a lot of CP (child pornography) content continues to circulate years after the victim has grown up.”This would give a lot of actual victims’ horrific flashbacks and reminders
He added: “Balenciaga shows no precaution or remorse to what these implications entail, and how detrimental grooming can be to minors. If not, in the worst-case scenario, this is something normalised for them.”
Balenciaga has publicly apologized for the campaign and posted a statement on its Instagram account promising to take actions such as donating “a significant fund for grants to organizations so that we can help make a difference in protecting children,” and said it “appointed a best-in-class agency to assess and evaluate our content”.
However, it has not revealed which organization the money would go to, how much it would donate, or which agency (independent or not) it appointed to evaluate its content.
The brand is part of the Kering Group, which owns major luxury fashion houses such as Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Bottega Veneta.
Students at the university urged the public to boycott the brand.
“It’s totally disgusting. How is this brand not attacked by us, the public? We should stand against it, raise awareness and stop buying anything from them and Adidas since they didn’t cut deals with them, they stand with them,” one student said.
German sportswear brand Adidas collaborated with Balenciaga on a 2023 Spring collection. It is yet to come out with a statement.
“It’s disgusting to see the lengths fashion companies [go to] in the name of ‘art’ and making money,” said one student of Balenciaga’s campaign, while another said: “It’s shameful what they did, especially since they’re a big [global] brand”.
While some celebrities have spoken out against Balenciaga, many of its ambassadors have not. Bella Hadid, one of the brand’s current brand ambassadors, has deleted a few posts wearing Balenciaga from her Instagram, but has not put out a statement regarding the campaign. Others who have remained quite include actress Nicole Kidman, singer Dua Lipa, and model Naomi Campbell.
“With brands like Balenciaga coming out with campaigns like these in 2022, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if paedophilia gets legalized within 2 decades from now,” one student told us.
While Kim Kardashian, who is heavily associated with the brand, said she is re-evaluating her relationship with the brand, “basing it off their willingness to accept accountability for something that should have never happened to begin with — and the actions I am expecting to see them take to protect children,” the mother-of-four said.
“The safety of children must be held with the highest regard and any attempts to normalize child abuse of any kind should have no place in our society — period,” she said.
Balenciaga continues to operate stores around the world, and its social media channels have not been suspended.
While retailers like Level Shoes, Bloomingdale’s and online platform Ounass in the UAE are still selling the brand’s products, The Closet, a retailer of used luxury goods, said on its Instagram it “will stop accepting Balenciaga and we have taken down all Balenciaga products from our stores and website till further notice”.
Balenciaga has been contacted for comment.