Last week fashion giant Balenciaga found itself at the centre of what is now a storm of criticism for its 2022 holiday season ad campaign which depicted little girls holding teddy bears clad in S&M Bondage gear. In the aftermath of that scandal, the eyes of the internet were turned towards the company, and some of what has been uncovered is not pretty:
— New York Post (@nypost) November 25, 2022
While the majority of the brand’s high profile celebrity associates have done little to disavow the now infamous photo shoot, much of the online attention has been focused on a Russian born stylist associated with Balenciaga, Lotta Volkova – pictured below.
Volkova has worked alongside Balenciaga’s creative director Demna Gvasalia and also with Vetements, a brand co-created by Gvasalia.
A 2016 LinkedIn profile describing Volkova as Balenciaga’s “right hand person” illustrates her close ties with the brand, suggesting a large amount of influence over its content.
In recent days a photo has circulated online of a model dressed in red holding two scarlet baby dolls, and was shared numerous times on social media, however it has emerged that this image is not in fact of Volkova or associated with Balenciaga.
Despite this, images captured from Volkova’s personal instagram page – made private soon after the controversy arose – leave little to the imagination regarding Volkova’s rather disturbing interests.
The artist seems to have a notable fascinating interest in themes around murder, bondage, mutilation, satanism, and child abuse.
Here a young girl is taped to a chair with her mouth gagged.
While this particularly disturbing image shoes a young boy who has been disemboweled and mutilated.
The image below seems to depict an infant with Harlequins syndrome. Many of Volkova’s posts depict children in a state of fear, pain, or distress.
Here is an image that appears to depict the pain response sent to a little girl’s brain after pricking her thumb on a thorn.
Volkova also seems to have a strange interest in depicting teddy bears in a violent or sexualised manner leading many to believe that her style inspired the teddy bear bags despite her agent claiming that Volkova has not worked with Balenciaga since 2018.
The bear above seems to be bound in the style of Japanese ‘Shibori’ which is heavily featured in pornography.
Here Volkova herself straddles an oversized teddy bear.
The high profile stylists’s interest also extend to themes of satanism and cannibalism.
Below she tags herself as cannibal Lotta while biting into something that looks like chicken, take note of her ‘cannibal corpse’ shirt in the introductory photo at the beginning of this piece.
While Volkova is at the centre of the criticism, an exploration of the instagram account of another Balenciaga collaborator, Spanish digital artist Claudia Mate, also revealed some rather disturbing content also featuring numerous depictions of children in distress.
Mate, who digitised the brand’s 2022 collection, uses themes like demonic possession rather frequently in her work.
A video on Mate’s page also shows her throwing the Bible on the ground after editing the video to look like she received an electric shock after touching it.
Mate’s page seems to repeat the themes of children in distress, or of child sexualisation.
Balenciaga released a statement strongly denying that the brand condones or wishes to promote the sexualisation or abuse of children.
In its statement posted to instagram it said, “We strongly condemn child abuse; it was never never our intent to include it in our narrative.”
It also blamed a third party for the inclusion of court documents from a US Supreme Court ruling on the illegality of images of child pornography.
The brand has yet to address the placement of books by controversial Belgian artist Michael Borremans whose painting include toddlers covered in blood, some of whom have been castrated.
More of the disturbing images can be viewed in the Daily Mail’s report.
One might think that a multi-billion euro fashion company like Balenciaga with its close links to stars like Kim Kardashian, Billie Eilish, and Kanye West, would be more concerned about the public image of the artists that they choose to work with.