How One Balenciaga Ad Sparked an Outrageous Conspiracy Theory

Balenciaga might have left Twitter, but that hasn’t stopped users of the site from dissecting the luxury brand’s every move.

On November 21, June Nicole Lapine, better known as @shoe0nhead, took to Elon Musk’s Twitter to imply that the luxury fashion label is conspiring to exploit children — a baseless claim rendered even more preposterous by the YouTuber’s reasoning.

She begins by highlighting a few photos from Balenciaga’s holiday gifting campaign, which starred 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 kids, the isolated campaign isn’t exactly indicative of a wider conspiracy.

Still, Lapine builds her case by erroneously linking the images to photos from an entirely separate — again, completely separated — campaign promoting Balenciaga’s collaboration with adidas.

Said photographs feature the collaboration’s Three Stripes handbag atop a pile of very official looking documents.

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

A bizarre choice in set dressing? Absolutely. Definitive proof that, as Lapine suggests, Balenciaga is hinting at something unlawful? Hardly.

She goes on to cite Balenciaga’s wiped Instagram feed 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 conspiratorial tweets went viral, Balenciaga’s official Instagram was replenished with fresh imagery of its Spring 2023 Garde-Robe collection, which launched for pre-order on the morning of November 21.

Some particularly zealous 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 re-tweets.

On November 22, Balenciaga turned off comments on his Instagram page and posted a Story apologizing for the drama surrounding his holiday gifting 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 court documents peeking out from underneath the adidas bag, a swift response that may have been prompted by the Kanye controversy that only just escaped the month prior.

“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’s safety and well-being.”

Balenciaga did not immediately respond to Highsnobiety’s request for further comment.

While it’s tempting to buy into Lapine’s salacious plot line, she presents zero evidence that, as she implies, Balenciaga is currently tied up in some sort of Epstein-esque child abuse ring.

Also misinformed: her claim that the photo featuring a copy of United States v. williams is part of the same campaign featuring Balenciaga’s teddy bears (which, by the way, are costumed more like ’80s punks than actual leather fetishists).

Of course, she’s just doing what the internet does best: making mountains out of molehills in the name of clicks.

Hey, we all do it, but at the very least, Lapine could get her facts straight.

Or not! The story may be utterly baseless but it sounds offensive, which was enough to get it a mention on Tucker Carlson’s famously fact-free primetime show. As a result, conservatives across Twitter are piling on the untruths. Just as Elon intended!

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