By: Lieba Nesis
Two weeks after the astounding November 16th adult holiday Balenciaga campaign which featured toddlers with bondage teddy bears in harnesses, thongs, and neck chains with black demonic dragons in the background and not one person has been held accountable. Child pornography court documents and a book by Michael Borremans who frequently paints castrated babies featured in another ad sealed the deal-proving the toddlers placement was hardly accidental. Owner of parent company Kering, Francois Henri Pinault and his wife actress Salma Hayek, have yet to release a statement. Balenciaga itself placed skulls near these bears in its social media campaign.
Creative Director Demna Gvasalia waited until December 2nd to issue a half-assed apology stating it was “never his intention” to promote child abuse. So what were his intentions-to push the envelope and see what he could get away with? It is interesting he hired Gabriele Galimberti for the shoot- a 45-year-old man who specializes in photographing toddlers. Pick up his book “Toy Stories” and you will be completely creeped out by his placement of 50 toddlers with their favorite toys-and yes he is partially to blame for shooting kids with bondage bears. It is highly suspicious that Demna made children the focus of an adult campaign.
Now let’s discuss the people Demna keeps around him including Lotta Volkova who denies working with Demna since 2017 yet in 2020 Vogue called her the invisible hand behind Demna’s brand Vetements and Balenciaga. Volkova also appeared as a model in more than eight Vetements and Balenciaga shows due to her close personal friendship with Demna. Volkova had to make her horrific Instagram private and delete 100 posts since they contained pictures of babies with skulls, a bloodied child’s bedroom, a half clothed teenager, babies being eaten and a four year old girl in a swimsuit taped to a chair.
The Russian Volkova has been with Demna from his Vetements days in 2014 along with their best friend Gosha Rubchinskiy a designer who in 2018 asked underage age boys for explicit sexual photos of themselves and to FaceTime him from the bathroom with text messages such as “it’s okay if it’s a little hard”-yuck! Demna, Gosha and Lotta were even featured together in 2017 in the “Business of Fashion” so to say they are besties is an understatement.
Demna was sickeningly depicted in an October 2022 New York Times profile as one of “The Greats” in which he mentions his team which includes: Chief Creative Officer Martina Tiefenthaler who placed devil horns on a Balenciaga photo in a Numero art article, the artist Anne Imhof who has satan avatars strewn across her Instagram, the painter Eliza Douglas who paints devils and skulls and the photographer Nadia Lee Cohen whose latest picture has a wax naked body strewn on a lounge with real silicone hair. You can definitely tell a person’s character by their company.
The rest of his team has private Instagram accounts-these are the good ones. It is then no surprise that his October 2022 show featured bloodied and bruised models with facial piercings and latex masks and bodysuits. Demna has said his sexual education comes from S & M and the sex clubs he frequents. So why have celebrity collaborators such as Bella Hadid, Nicole Kidman, Madonna, Dua Lipa, Anna Wintour, and Hailey Bieber failed to condemn the sickening layout. Because parent company Kering owns Gucci, Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen and Brioni and they don’t want to be shunned from these companies since they only care about their pocketbook. Kim Kardashian and numerous newspapers whitewashed the whole affair since they receive major advertising dollars from Kering.
Vogue is the worst offender recently posting they were “more bored than offended” by the toddler campaign in an article by Raven Smith entitled “Has the Balenciaga Controversy Gone Too Far”? Remarkably Raven admits the “bears and kids were a deliberate arrangement designed to provoke a reaction.” The threat of losing advertising dollars has obviously provoked a reaction from Vogue as well.
The easiest thing for Kering CEO Francois Henri Pinault to do would have been to fire Demna and his whole deviant team and yet not one head has rolled. This could either be because of the close to $1.5 billion revenue Balenciaga produces or because he himself signed off on the campaign and therefore is culpable.
Pinault who owns Christie’s has also come under fire for permitting artists Jake and Dinos Chapman to sell mannequins featuring naked children some of whom are conjoined as well as severed heads just as Gucci’s Alessandro Michele displayed heads in 2018 without opprobrium from Pinault. Pinault recently fired Michele on the spot for less than stellar revenues while allowing Demna to remain despite his deliberately endangering the fate of our most vulnerable-ensuring the Kering name will be forever tarnished.