Balenciaga Controversy: How Celebrity Support Impacts Brand Reputation Amid A Boycott Backlash

Published by: SHE Magazine USA Date: December 12, 2023 Kim Kardashian, Nicole Kidman and Salma Hayek Pinault. PHOTO: BACKGRID, STEFANIE KEENAN/GETTY IMAGES
Kim Kardashian, Nicole Kidman and Salma Hayek Pinault. PHOTO: BACKGRID, STEFANIE KEENAN/GETTY IMAGES FOR BALENCIAGA (2)

For any global high-fashion brand, public perception is everything. Maintaining their glamorous and avant-garde image often requires a fine line to tread, avoiding any controversy that could put their reputation in jeopardy. Balenciaga, the illustrious Parisian fashion brand, recently found itself embroiled in a whirlwind of backlash and criticism, prompting a boycott movement that threatened to mar its coveted reputation. However, despite the widespread dissent, a significant number of celebrity figures, including Kim Kardashian and Cardi B, appear to stand by the brand, adding further fuel to the fiery debate. 

Salma Hayek: Image Credit: Gilbert Flores for WWD

At the heart of the controversy was an advertisement campaign that was widely accused of sexualizing minors. The condemnatory backlash it faced was swift and severe, with the hashtag #cancelBalenciaga trending across Twitter and TikTok, numerous individuals accusing Balenciaga and its creative director, Demna Gvasalia, of condoning pedophilia and child exploitation. The brand, once celebrated for its bold and innovative design, rapidly turned into an emblem of scandal, with heated discourses surrounding the ethics and morality of its marketing strategy.

Damage Control

Responding to the backlash, Demna Gvasalia, the creative director at the helm of Balenciaga, issued an apology, acknowledging the misstep and pledging accountability for the brand’s actions. The offensive advertisement campaign was immediately pulled from social media, a timely move that signaled the brand’s recognition of its error and demonstrated its willingness to rectify its mistake. Yet, the damage had been done; the echoes of the controversy continued to resonate, fueling a boycott movement that threatened to tarnish Balenciaga’s prominent status.

However, in the era of cancel culture and social media activism, where consequences often unfold swiftly, it is crucial to recognize the resilience some brands reveal. Notably, this resilience often materializes in the form of continued support from influential figures, who can add another layer of complexity to the narrative. In Balenciaga’s case, this support came from renowned celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Cardi B, who chose to standby the brand amid the turbulent wave of reproach.

Still Stand In Solidarity Despite Backlash

Kim Kardashian, a global fashion icon known for her trendsetting looks, and Cardi B, a Grammy-winning rapper with a distinct sense of style, have been supporters of Balenciaga in the past. They have often been spotted sporting the brand’s outfits and accessories, catapulting its designs into countless headlines and social feeds. Despite the ongoing boycott movement and torrent of criticism, these high-profile figures have not disavowed Balenciaga, which has sparked a range of responses.

Cardi B: Balenciaga RTW Fall 2024 – Los Angeles Front Row Image Credit : Gilbert Flores for WWD

Some see their continued endorsement as a strategy of solidarity, a show of support that reinforces their personal preferences over the sway of public outrage. Others, however, regard it as a tone-deaf gesture, perceiving it as an apparent disregard of the concerns raised against the brand’s questionable advertisement campaign. 

Kendall Jenner, Kim Kardashian, Cédric Charbit, Brooklyn Beckham and Nicola Peltz: Balenciaga RTW Fall 2024 – Los Angeles Front Row: Image Credit : Gilbert Flores for WWD

Celebrity Power to Influence

While the repercussions of the controversy are still unfolding, the Balenciaga saga offers a valuable lesson in brand accountability. In today’s world, where social media enables public scrutiny to amplify at an unprecedented speed, even a well-established brand like Balenciaga cannot evade consequences when it stumbles. 

Nicole Kidman and Cédric Charbit: Balenciaga RTW Fall 2024 – Los Angeles Front Row Image Credit : Gilbert Flores for WWD

This drama also underscores the power of celebrity influence in reframing brand narratives. The ongoing support of Kardashian and Cardi B has reminded us that, as much as hashtags can trend, and boycotts can surge, the endorsement of a few highly influential figures can provide a brand with a protective shield, or at the very least, boost its chance of weathering the storm.

Brooklyn Beckham and Nicola Peltz: Balenciaga RTW Fall 2024 – Los Angeles Front Row Image Credit: Gilbert Flores for WWD

In the aftermath of this debacle, Balenciaga’s journey to regain its unequivocal admiration in the fashion realm will indeed be an uphill battle, a cautionary tale for any brand navigating the treacherous waters of public perception. Meanwhile, the world watches, awaiting to see how this saga unfolds, with its ripples likely to shape the landscape of high-fashion branding in the face of controversy henceforth.

Beena Yusuf
Editor in Chief

Picture of SHE USA


About SHE

Proud originator from Hearst Publications family. SHE USA is a bi-monthly print/online Fashion, Lifestyle, Business, Health & Wellness, Beauty and Entertainment publication.
SHE is affiliated with SHE Magazine from the UK & South Asia. SHE has been in publication for 56 plus years and is one of the most widely read English language publications on the sub-continent.
The USA edition launched in 2018. SHE USA appeals to the upper echelons in the fashion world between ages 20-65. 

Leave a Reply