More photographs from an axed Balenciaga campaign are being questioned today over the prominence of a book which celebrates a Belgian artist whose work includes depictions of castrated toddlers.
Two photos from the brand’s now canceled Spring ’23 ad campaign feature French actress Isabelle Huppert posing in a Manhattan office with a stack of books behind her.
Among the books is one that celebrates the Belgian painter Michael Borremans. Borremans’ work is varied but frequently features children. His 2017/2018 series, Fire from the Sun, shows a group of toddlers, some of them with blood staining their skin, in sinister composition.
In some of the images, the toddlers appear castrated.
Balenciaga has not commented on the Borremans book or how it made it into its Spring ’23 campaign.
There are other distinct similarities between Borremans’ work and some of Balenciaga’s past designs – namely Kim’s look at the 2021 Met Gala, where she appeared with black fabric covering her face.
In this image from Balenciaga’s scrapped Spring ’23 campaign, Isabelle Huppert sits in front of a stack of books including one that celebrates Michael Borremans, a Belgian painter whose work is known to include depictions of castrated toddlers
The artist Michael Borremans, showing off his work in Prague in January 2020. Right, one of the books of his works
The images which feature the book of his work were swiftly pulled from the fashion brand’s website this week after the BDSM teddy bears controversy.
Those images showed young child models holding the bears – which are in fact fluffy handbags – posing around glassware.
In a statement on Monday, the brand apologized for the bears campaign again, and took full responsibility of it.
‘We would like to address the controversies surrounding our recent ad campaigns. We strongly condemn child abuse; it was never our intent to include it in our narrative.
‘The two separate ad campaigns in questions reflect a series of grievous errors for which Balenciaga takes responsibility.
‘The first campaign, the gift collection campaign, featured children with plush bear bags dressed in what some have labelled BDMS-inspired outfits. Our plush bear bags and the gift collection should not have been featured with children.
Borremans’ other work includes his 2017 series Fire From The Sun, which features castrated toddlers and babies holding what look like severed limbs, while playing together nude in a large group
Borremans’ Fire From The Sun series is his most graphic and features images of toddlers with blood on their skin
This is the book believed to be featured in the office photoshoot. It features a woman on the cover with her face covered in black. Shown right, Kim Kardashian’s Balenciaga Met Gala look in 2021, where she famously covered her face with black cloth
Balenciaga’s latest statement acknowledges the teddy bears scandal, which it takes responsibility for, and the SCOTUS child porn ruling being included in another photo but it makes no mention of the Borremans book
‘This was a wrong choice by Balenciaga, combined with our failure in assessing and validating images. The responsibility for this lies with Balenciaga alone,’ it said.
But the fashion house claims another controversial prop that made its way onto the set – a printout of a SCOTUS ruling on child porn – was the fault of design production company North Six.
‘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 which confirms as illegal and not protected by freedom of speech the promotion of child pornography.
‘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’s attorneys filed a notice of summons against North Six and set designer Nicholas Des Jardins last week, alleging they are responsible.
Balenciaga withdrew this holiday campaign featuring BDSM bears, wine and champagne glasses, after widespread backlash
This is the July ad campaign which featured the printout of the SCOTUS child porn ruling
Des Jardins’ agent said he is being made out to be a scapegoat, and that multiple Balenciaga staffers were on-set at the time of the shoot.
Others in the fashion industry agree.
Balenciaga’s creative director Demna Gvasalia. He has not yet issued a personal comment
1 Granary, which was founded by Central Saint Martins students to represent talent in the fashion industry, condemned Balenciaga’s response.
‘Accountability only when successful – that seems to be the mantra of Balenciaga this week.
They would like us to believe that Demna is the all-seeing god-like genius who personally makes every creative decision in the house… yet, when a campaign gets rightly cancelled, those outside collaborators are suddenly to blame.
‘Real leaders take responsibility. For their team’s mistakes and their own,’ they said.
In the filing, Balenciaga’s lawyers blame the studio – which it has used multiple times in the past – for the controversy, making no mention of the bears controversy from earlier in the week.
‘As a result of Defendants’ misconduct, members of the public, including the news media, have falsely and horrifically associated Balenciaga with the repulsive and deeply disturbing subject of the court decision,’ court documents reveal.
‘Defendants are liable to Balenciaga for all harm resulting from this false association.’
The brand is now being boycotted by a handful of celebrity clients.
Kim Kardashian, its prolific ambassador who is friends with creative director Demna Gvasalia, said she was ‘disgusted’ with the imagery and was ‘re-evaluating’ her relationship with the brand.
Demna has not issued a personal comments since the controversy erupted.