As the Balenciaga “child abuse” ad scandal grows, one TikTok user has spotted more “demonic symbols” hidden in plain sight in the controversial photo-shoot.
“Balenciaga on mad one,” music producer Marc Baigent captioned the video, which has already been viewed more than 2.3 million times.
“Five things spotted in one of the Balenciaga campaign photos,” the video says, as it zooms in on different set elements in the photo featuring a young boy.
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On a shelf behind the boy’s left shoulder is “a child’s drawing of the devil”.
On the floor by his left foot is a “random black hood, perfectly placed and tied, resembling a Satanic cult”, with a candle on the opposite side.
“Even the trainers look like the devil staring you in the face,” the video says, highlighting the boy’s bright red shoes.
In front of the boy on the floor to his right, a roll of yellow Balenciaga tape shows two As, spelling “Baal”.
Baal was an ancient fertility god worshipped by many Middle Eastern communities, particularly the Canaanites, who were notorious for child sacrifice.
In the Bible, Jeremiah describes how worshippers of Baal “burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings”.
Roman sources also describe the Carthaginian practice of child sacrifice. The Carthaginians, also known as the Phoenicians, were a Canaanite people. Rome famously destroyed the city-state, located in modern-day Tunisia, after three bloody wars between 264 and 146BC.
“Lastly, one of the dolls with a padlock around its neck. Coincidence?” the video says.
The video has attracted more than 3600 comments.
“The mat he’s standing on almost resembles a Ouija board,” one user wrote.
“It’s not [just] Balenciaga. So many hidden messages [in] music videos as well. Or video games, almost everywhere,” another said.
A third said, “They knew exactly what they were doing.”
Balenciaga was plunged into crisis last week after a series of photos showing young girls holding stuffed animals dressed in bondage gear went viral on social media.
Eagle-eyed users highlighted another photo from the brand’s website showing a document tucked under a handbag that appeared to reference a court case about child pornography.
Balenciaga has since issued a series of grovelling apologies, pulling down the two ad campaigns and filing a $US25 million lawsuit against the production company and set designer allegedly responsible.
Frequent collaborator Kim Kardashian also broke her silence this week, saying she was “disgusted and outraged” but leaving the door open to working with the brand in future.
In another blow this week, it emerged that photos from set that featured the child pornography court case also showed a book featuring a Belgian artist whose work includes depictions of castrated toddlers.
Photos from the brand’s now-cancelled spring 2023 ad campaign show French actress Isabelle Huppert posed in a Manhattan office with a stack of books behind her.
Notably in that stack of books is a title celebrating Belgian painter Michaël Borremans, whose works frequently feature children.
The David Zwirner gallery in Hong Kong, where Borremans’ Fire from the Sun has been shown, described his paintings as “toddlers engaged in playful but mysterious acts with sinister overtones and insinuations of violence”.
In a statement Monday, the brand apologised for missing the mark with both ad campaigns.
“We strongly condemn child abuse — it was never our intent to include it in the narrative,” the luxury couture company wrote.
“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 BDSM-inspired outfits. Our plush bear bags and the gift collection should not have been featured with children.”
The company later addressed the inclusion of legal documents from the US v. Williams Supreme Court case, noting, “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.”
Balenciaga said the “inclusion of these unapproved documents” in the ad was due to “reckless negligence”.
The company has since filed a $US25 million lawsuit against the parties allegedly responsible — production company North Six and set designer Nicholas Des Jardins and his namesake company.
The company says it takes “full accountability” for its “lack of oversight and control of the documents in the background” and pledged to do things differently moving forward.
“We are closely revising our organisation and collective ways of working,” Balenciaga said. “We are reinforcing the structures around our creative processes and validation steps. We want to ensure that new controls mark a pivot and will prevent this from happening again.”
As a result of the controversy, the company said it will be working with “organisations who specialise in child protection and aims at ending child abuse and exploitation”.
“We want to learn from our mistakes and identify ways we can contribute,” the brand concluded. “Balenciaga reiterates its sincere apologies for the offence we have caused and extends its apologies to talents and partners.”
Kardashian addressed the campaign in a statement posted to her Instagram Story this week.
“I have been quiet for the past few days, not because I haven’t been disgusted and outraged by the recent Balenciaga campaigns, but because I wanted an opportunity to speak to their team to understand for myself how this could have happened,” the reality star wrote.
“As a mother of four, I have been shaken by the disturbing images. The safety of children must be held with the highest regard and any attempts to normalise child abuse of any kind should have no place in our society – period.”
Kardashian said she appreciated Balenciaga’s “removal of the campaigns and apology”.
“In speaking with them, I believe they understand the seriousness of the issue and will take the necessary measures for this to never happen again,” she said.
“As for my future with Balenciaga, I am currently re-evaluating my 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.”
— with NY Post