This month, Kim Kardashian has faced growing backlash amid Balenciaga’s controversial spring/summer 2023 campaign.
The photo shoot went viral on Twitter on Nov. 21 for including two young children posing with teddy bears that were dressed in BDSM-style harnesses.
It was also pointed out that court documents mentioning “child porn” were visible props in the background of the shoot, which sparked huge outrage online.
Balenciaga was subsequently accused of sexualizing children and platforming “groomers,” and Kim Kardashian — who is one of the biggest faces of the brand — received heavy criticism for not speaking out against the shoot.
Kanye West was the one who introduced Kim to Balenciaga’s creative director, Demna Gvasalia, after inviting him to be a part of his Yeezy Season 1 creative team in 2015.
And Kim’s relationship with the designer grew separately from her ex-husband, and she is now renowned for being a dedicated brand collaborator.
But despite Balenciaga issuing a statement apologizing for its offensive campaign on Nov. 22, Kim remained silent for a week.
Balenciaga’s initial Instagram statement read: “We sincerely apologize for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused. Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign. We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms.”
In a second post, the company addressed the court documents that had been featured in the shoot, saying: “We apologize for displaying unsettling documents in our campaign. We take this matter very seriously and are taking legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set and including unapproved items for our Spring 23 campaign photoshoot. We strongly condemn abuse of children in any form.”
But this wasn’t enough for horrified critics, who continued to put pressure on Kim to acknowledge the scandal.
In fact, the star’s social media posts were flooded with comments calling out her silence, and last week’s poorly timed episode of The Kardashians only added fuel to the fire when one of its central storylines focused on Kim walking the Balenciaga runway in July.
“The fact that Kim Kardashian is live tweeting about the latest episode of #TheKardashians which includes her walking for Balenciaga, but STILL hasn't condemned their child porn ad,” one person tweeted at the time.
“Kind of bad timing for #TheKardashians to air an episode where Kim takes North to the Balenciaga show,” another tweeted in reference to Kim’s 9-year-old daughter, North.
And then on Sunday, three days after the episode aired and a week after the campaign photo shoot went viral, Kim finally put out a statement addressing the situation.
Writing on social media, Kim said that she hadn’t commented sooner because she wanted to speak to the Balenciaga team herself and added that she had been “shaken” by the “disturbing images.”
“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,” Kim 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 normalize child abuse of any kind should have no place in our society — period,” she said. “I appreciate 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.”
“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 — & the actions I am expecting to see them take to protect children,” Kim concluded.
But many took issue with the response, particularly that Kim did not commit to cutting ties with the brand and how she praised Balenciaga for apologizing after the campaign came under fire.
“The most disturbing thing about this Balenciaga thing is Kim kardashian is one of the richest women in the world, could easily cut ties with them and make a huge stand but she won’t,” one person tweeted. “She’s a whole mother?!”
Another mocked: “Balenciaga ‘sorry we sexualized kids’ Kim k ‘all good.’”
And in seemingly unrelated Kardashian/Jenner news, Kim’s youngest sister Kylie Jenner uploaded some rare photos of her 9-month-old son to Instagram on Monday.
In fact, the lip kit mogul still hasn’t revealed her son’s name after she decided to change it from “Wolf” just days after he was born, and fans haven’t seen more than his feet in social media posts and video uploads.
But in a new “highlights” Instagram carousel that Kylie uploaded to her page yesterday, she has shown more of her little boy than ever before.
In one sweet photo, Kylie is sitting on the grass with her son propped up between her legs. While her hand is covering his face, his adorable curls are visible as well as the rest of his body.
Another photo shows Kylie supporting her son as he seemingly tries to walk, and one more is of her carrying him on her hip while her 4-year-old daughter Stormi walks beside them.
At first glance, the post appears to be totally innocent, but many started to question why Kylie had suddenly decided to share her son after almost 10 months of opting not to — and it didn’t take long for them to put two and two together.
One TikTok user reposted Kylie’s photos to a video and referenced her and Kim’s momager Kris Jenner as they wrote: “Kris said… the name, face reveal will be too obvious. Here are some crumbs.”
They added in the caption: “Since no one bought Kim Kardashian’s statements.”
Viewers immediately understood the TikTok was implying that Kylie's posts were a planned distraction and flocked to the comment section to talk about it.
“Kim gets blast for Balenciaga so Kylie is gonna reveal her baby so we can deflect,” one popular comment read. Someone else echoed: “Balenciaga distraction. Kris is genius.”
“Kris said Kim under pressure release a picture of your baby,” a third person wrote. Another user said: “I bet they were holding this in their back pocket for a crisis like this. Sad to think they’re played like pawns.”
Another TikTok user had uploaded a video breaking down the Balenciaga controversy and its link to Kim to their page Psych Advice with Julie Theis, to which one user had commented: “I guess we finally gonna find out the name of Kylies son.”
Following Kylie’s Instagram post, the OP replied to the comment with screenshots of the photos and wrote: “Kris Jenner telling her kids to release their good photos after the Balenciaga Scandal.”
“Always coming up with distractions,” one viewer claimed. Another asked: “When is Kris going to press the panic button and give us Kylie’s baby’s name."
Khloé Kardashian is also yet to reveal her newborn son’s face or name after his birth in July, and many theorized that she may follow in Kylie’s footsteps in a bid to take the heat off Kim.
BuzzFeed News has contacted Kim and Kylie’s rep for comment.
Meanwhile, Balenciaga issued another statement about the campaign on Monday. It reads: “We would like to address the controversies surrounding our recent ad campaigns. We strongly condemn child abuse; it was never our intent to include it in our narrative. The two separate ad campaigns in question reflect a series of grievous errors for which Balenciaga takes responsibility.”
It goes on to reference the teddy bear “dressed in what some have labelled BDSM-inspired outfits” and acknowledges that it “should not have been featured with children.”
“This was a wrong choice by Balenciaga,” the statement continues. “Combined with our failure in assessing and validating images, the responsibility for this lies with Balenciaga alone.”
Discussing the document referencing “the promotion of child pornography” seen in the second photo shoot, Balenciaga says that “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,” they add. “The inclusion of these unapproved documents was the result of reckless negligence for which Balenciaga has filed a complaint.”
“Balenciaga reiterates its sincere apologies for the offense we have caused and extends its apologies to talents and partners,” the statement concludes.