23 November 2022

Here’s the wild Balenciaga conspiracy theory explained

One Twitter user implied that the brand is conspiring to exploit children, sparking outrage online.

Despite Balenciaga’s departure from Twitter, the brand is still riling up controversy on the platform. On November 21st, a Twitter user known as @shoe0nhead – real name June Nicole Lapine – took to Twitter to imply that the luxury fashion label is conspiring to exploit children.

She begins by highlighting a selection of photos from Balenciaga’s holiday gifting campaign, which featured child models clutching the brand’s harness-clad teddy bear bags, accessories that debuted at Balenciaga’s Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2023 runway presentation.

While some have objected to Balenciaga’s decision to place the BDSM-inspired bags in the hands of young children, the images in isolation aren’t exactly indicative of a wider conspiracy. 

Lapine attempts to strengthen her case by linking the images from an entirely separate campaign promoting Balenciaga’s collaboration with Adidas. The photographs feature the collaborations Three Stripes handbag atop a pile of official-looking documents.

Upon zooming in, one of those documents is revealed to be a comment from United States v. Williams, a Supreme Court ruling that upheld the PROTECT Act. This federal law criminalises advertising, promoting, presenting, or distributing child pornography.

She goes on to cite Balenciaga’s wiped Instagram as further indication of the brand’s supposed guilt. Of course, anyone who follows the company knows that it periodically erases its feed and fills the blank slate with its latest drop.

Just before Lapine’s controversial tweets went viral, Balenciaga’s official Instagram was replenished with imagery of its Spring 2023 Garde-Robe collection, which launched for pre-order on the morning of November 21st.

Some conspiracy theorists began commenting on Balenciaga’s latest posts with references to Lapine’s claims, which have since garnered tens of thousands of likes and retweets. On November 22nd, Balenciaga turned off comments on its Instagram page and posted a story apologising for the drama surrounding its holiday gift campaign.

“Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign,” the statement read. “We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms.”

Two hours later, Balenciaga posted a follow-up story addressing those questionable court documents. “We are taking legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set and including unapproved items for our Spring 23 campaign photoshoot,” it clarified. “We stand for children safety and well-being.”

Although it may be tempting to buy into Lapine’s sensationalist story, she presents zero evidence that Balenciaga is, as she implies, involved in some sort of child abuse ring. While her claim that the photo featuring a copy of United States v. Williams is part of the same campaign featuring Balenciaga’s teddy bears was clearly misinformed.

  • Writer Chris Saunders Banner Image Credit

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