Fashion industry aims Balenciaga scorn at creative director Demna

‘He’s too big for his britches and he’s dragging the house down!’ Fashion insiders blame Balenciaga crisis on celeb-adored creative director Demna and say there’s ‘no way’ he didn’t sign off on controversial photoshoots

  • Balenciaga’s creative director Demna Gvasalia took over at the house in 2015
  • He is adored by stars including Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and Bella Hadid 
  • Demna hasn’t offered any statement of his own since the scandals erupted 
  • Now, fashion industry insiders say the blame for the controversy lies with him 
  • The issues began for Balenciaga with its holiday campaign featuring young, child models, holding BDSM-styled teddy bears 
  • More images from a different shoot then revealed a printout of a child porn ruling and a book celebrating an artist whose work depicts naked children 
  • Balenciaga took the heat for the BDSM bears shoot, but insists the other scandal was the fault of a third party set designer  

Balenciaga creative director Demna Gvasalia, who is now being blamed for the multiple scandals engulfing the brand 

The fashion industry is turning on Balenciaga’s creative director Demna Gvasalia, blaming him for the child imagery scandals that have engulfed the brand and accusing him of ‘dragging’ the historic fashion house ‘down’. 

Demna, 41, is yet to make any kind of statement of his own but has reposted Balenciaga’s remarks on the scandals on social media.  

The Spanish fashion house apologized for featuring children in a sexually charged photoshoot with bondage-styled teddy bear bags, but insists it is not to blame for child pornography legal documents appearing in the background of another image from a different shoot, or for the inclusion of a book of the artist Michael Borremans’ – whose work includes depictions of naked, castrated toddlers – in more images. 

The brand maintains that the fault for those two faux-pas lies with the set designer, Nicholas Des Jardins, and production powerhouse North Six, and has filed a notice of summons signaling that it intends to sue North Six for $25million. 

Demna took over from Alexander Wang as the fashion house’s creative director in 2015 and was widely credited for boosting its profits with lucrative partnerships with stars like Kim Kardashian, Kanye West and Bella Hadid. 

Now, many say there is ‘no way’ he isn’t ultimately to blame for the scandals that have rocked the fashion industry. 

‘Oh please. 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.

Demna with Kim Kardashian at the 2021 Met Gala. The 41-year-olld Georgian native has been credited with boosting Balenciaga’s profits by partnering with stars like Kardashian 

Demna and Kim in Paris in March 2022. She has gushed over the designer on The Kardashians and in interviews, and has become his star ambassador 

Demna with Bella Hadid, another of Balenciaga’s star models and ambassadors 

‘To blame a production company is nuts,’ fashion industry insider, Olga Liriano, told The New York Post. 

Another unnamed fashion source in Paris added of Demna, who now only uses his first name while working: ‘He’s gotten too big for his britches the way a lot of them have. 

‘All these [creative directors] think they can walk on water and can do no wrong. No one says boo to them. They’re too scared. 

‘Now this guy is dragging the house down. It was one of the most elegant in the business but now he has Balenciaga bringing out leather trash bags.

‘It’s scandalous to me what’s happened to this house,’ the source said. 

Vogue photographer Misan Harriman was quick to speak out against the brand when then scandal erupted. 

‘As a photographer that’s worked with many brands in the fashion industry, I am utterly horrified. I know how many steps you go through as a photographer to get the client to approve the images. I know how many adult eyes have to look at images for them to be printed, especially for a retail campaign where you’re selling the product online.

‘This shoot is abhorrent and those babies, those children who were not protected…so you could sell your products? The fashion industry needs to do something about this.

‘The owner, Kering, all the way up to the CEO, Francois Pinault, needs to do something about this. This is unacceptable- I don’t care if I never shoot for anyone in this industry  again. 

‘Children, we’re talking about. An Instagram apology is not enough,’ he said in a Twitter video. 

Neither Kering nor CEO Pinault has issued a comment. His wife, actress Salma Hayek, has promoted Balenciaga on Instagram in the past. She is yet to offer a statement. 

In a recent podcast, Demna boasted about no longer trying to make the industry understand him. 

‘I no longer think about making the fashion industry understand what I do,’ he says, ‘I just do it.’

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 

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

Another fashion industry insider told ‘Most time on shoots we have the photography team, the make-up team, the stylist team and maybe three to five representatives of the brand.

‘It will include the brand’s editorial creative director. 

‘The people on set at the Balenciaga shoot were pushing for risqué and thought the teddy bear and a child will fit the brand’s look.

‘It’s dumb, but it fits the brand. While they might want to sue the creative team, someone on their team was definitely on the shoot and I’m sure the person is answering questions.’ 

The first problem for Balenciaga was its holiday advertising campaign; a series of images showing young child models holding teddy bear shaped bags. 

The bears were dressed in BDSM gear and the photoshoots were decorated with empty wine and champagne glasses. 

The campaign went live on Balenciaga’s website last week but quickly sparked outrage among consumers, who said it sexually exploited children. 

Balenciaga is owned by The Kering Group, whose CEO is Francois Pinault. He is shown with his wife, Salma Hayek, in November 

Hayek continues to support Balenciaga on her Instagram feed. She is shown in a post from earlier this year 

After days of silence, Balenciaga apologized and admitted it was a ‘mistake’ to use children. 

In the wake of the bears scandal, another questionably image surfaced from a different photoshoot. 

The shoot, completed in July, was to showcase Balenciaga’s Spring ’23 collection of handbags and clothes. 

In one image from the Adidas x Balenciaga range was a printout of a Supreme Court ruling on child pornography and whether or not it legally counts as free speech (it does not). 

The sheet of paper was lying beneath a handbag. It was seized upon by eagle-eyed critics after the bears controversy, with many deducing that it demonstrated a troubling theme within the brand’s shoots. 

Balenciaga is insistent that this isn’t the case, and that the Spring ’23 shoot, carried out months before the bears shoot, was orchestrated by production company North Six and set designer Nicholas Des Jardins. 

The brand also denied that it had ever been inspired by Michael Borremans – the Belgian artist whose book was in the background of another image from the same photoshoot. 

‘Balenciaga and/or Demna have never been inspired by the artist Michael Borremans or his work.

‘There are no connections whatsoever between Balenciaga and Borremans,’ Robin Meason, Balenciaga’s Global PR Director, told  

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