Balenciaga ‘child abuse’ ad scandal: Designer Demna speaks out

After weeks of silence, Balenciaga’s controversial creative director Demna has finally addressed the BDSM ad scandal torched online for incorporating children with bondage gear and allegations of normalising sexual fetishisation and abuse of children.

The New York Post reports the Georgian fashion designer, who goes only by his first name, posted a lengthy statement on Instagram, vowing to “engage with child protection organisations”.

“I want to personally apologise for the wrong artistic choice of concept for the gifting campaign with the kids and I take my responsibility. It was inappropriate to have kids promote objects that had nothing to do with them,” the 41-year-old, who is personal friends with Kim Kardashian and disgraced rapper Kanye West, wrote.

“As much as I would sometimes like to provoke a thought through my work, I would NEVER have an intention to do that with such an awful subject as child abuse that I condemn. Period.

“I need to learn from this, listen and engage with child protection organisations to know how I can contribute and help on this terrible subject.

“I apologise to anyone offended by the visuals and Balenciaga has guaranteed that adequate measures will be taken not only to avoid similar mistakes in the future but also to take accountability in protecting child welfare in every way we can.”

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Last week, the Kering-owned French fashion house issued its own statement along with a lawsuit against the production company responsible for some of the images.

For the uninitiated, the top fashion label came under fire after running a problematic campaign featuring young children modelling with what appear to be teddy bears wearing bondage gear. Meanwhile, another ad showed what appeared to be legal documents from a Supreme Court case that ruled on federal laws regarding child pornography.

The fashion house has since apologised, pulled the ads, and vowed internal and external investigations.

It also filed a $25 million ($A36.7 million) lawsuit against the producers of one of the ads.

Demna’s apology comes after fashion designers blamed the mogul for failing to take responsibility for the scandal.

Olga Liriano, who has spent years in the fashion industry as a model booker, photo director and top magazine editor, said it is ridiculous to think Demna and the top echelon at Balenciaga didn’t know what the campaigns were going to look like once they were photographed. (The teddy bear ad was shot by Gabriele Galimberti, who has said he was told the theme was “punk”.)

“Oh please,” Liriano said of the Vetements co-founder. “Demna doesn’t put out one image that he hasn’t approved. Demna is not only the creative director, he’s driving all the imagery behind the campaigns. To blame a production company is nuts.”

Meanwhile, the Business of Fashion rescinded its Global Voices Award, which was due to have been presented to Demna at the website’s annual gala on Thursday.

Balenciaga has previously been panned for Demna’s bizarre, pricey creations, like a $1790 ($A2633) purse that resembled a trash bag as well as his latest fashion show, which had models marching in war trenches.

However, Demna wrote in his show notes that he “became a forever refugee” when his family fled the war in his native Georgia when he was young, noting the conflict with Russia has “triggered the pain” from his past and highlighted the “absurdity” of sartorial spectacles.

“I realised that cancelling this show would mean giving in, surrendering to the evil that has already hurt me so much for almost 30 years,” Demna said.

“I decided that I can no longer sacrifice parts of me to that senseless, heartless war of ego.”

This article originally appeared in the New York Post and was reproduced with permission

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