10 February 2023

Demna finally speaks out about Balenciaga controversies: “I sincerely apologise for what happened”

In a “series of lengthy conversations” with Vogue, Creative Director Denma apologises for the issues with the brand's ad campaigns and adds that he will make the brand more fashion-focused again.

The Creative Director of Balenciaga, Demna, has spoken out regarding the brand’s ‘Gift Shop’ ad campaign late last year, which featured children holding teddy bears in BDSM gear and SCOTUS child porn documents. In a tell-all interview with Vogue, he apologised again for the actions of the brand, claiming the BDSM gear was referencing “punk and DIY.” 

The “series of lengthy conversations” in Paris earlier this year was published by Vogue yesterday. “There were control processes in place, people involved — internal and external — but we just did not spot what was problematic,” states Denma, who has chosen to be referred to by one name since 2021.

“This was an error of judgment. I regret this a lot. We learned from this now and there are going to be closer and more attentive checks and validation steps applied before any image goes out. For this I want to say I am sorry; I sincerely apologize for what happened and to anyone who has been hurt by it.”

He claimed that the SCOTUS child pornography documents, including a Supreme Court ruling regarding the promotion of child pornography in a book by Belgian artist Michaël Borremans, were a coincidence.

“It’s the only explanation that is plausible to me. That’s the only way I can explain it. Obviously, if you look for the dots, you can connect anything, but I don’t have any other explanation for it. What I can definitely say is that it was not intentional by me or Balenciaga. If it was intentional by someone else, I don’t know,” added Demna. Those on the set included set designer Nicholas Des Jardins and his company.

Despite these controversies, Demna goes on to explain his work is all about raising eyebrows, and he will not be stopping pushing buttons anytime soon: “The provocative aspect of my work often got misinterpreted and misunderstood, and I no longer feel like applying it to my designs. I often used some kind of wit in my design language, and it has often been deemed provocative. For me, it was more about having fun and not taking fashion too seriously.”

That’s not to say Demna is not taking steps moving forwards for Balenciaga. He is set to implement a stricter schedule of checks and rules, “internal and external, for the image to be checked and approved.”

And with their signature viral-worthy approach to fashion, Balenciaga is supposedly retracting their need to stay attached to relevance, and making it all about the clothes again. “I have decided to go back to my roots in fashion as well as to the roots of Balenciaga, which is making quality clothes — not making image or buzz.”

Balenciaga has now announced a new partnership with the National Children’s Alliance (NCA), and their newly launched Mental Health Institute for three years. NCA is said to educate the fashion house on child protection. Vogue’s conversation with Denma could not have come at a more convenient time, as Balenciaga are set to continue their show at Paris Fashion Week on the 5th of March for their AW23 runway. 

  • Writer Ella Chadwick
  • Banner Image Credit Instagram @demnagram

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