The similarities between Balenciaga's designs and Michel Borremans

REVEALED: The OTHER similarities between Balenciaga’s designs and the controversial Belgian artist whose book was prominently placed in background of photoshoot

  • In the background of a now scrapped Balenciaga ad campaign is a book by the artist Michael Borremans 
  • Balenciaga blamed the set of the shoot on North Six, a company which it said supplied all of the props 
  • Similarities can be drawn between Balenciaga’s designs and some of Borremans’ work 
  • Among them is the black face coverings modeled by Kim Kardashian and in the 51st Couture Show 
  • One of Borremans’ paintings, The Angel, features a woman with a face covered in black matter 
  • He features other face coverings in different works, as Balenciaga has done in other shows 
  • The fashion house has been widely criticized for using children in its holiday ad campaign with bondage bears

After apologizing for its bondage teddy bear campaign and blaming a second scandal involving child porn on a set designer, embattled Balenciaga is yet to answer for a third concern from its recently axed ad campaigns – a prominently placed book which celebrates the artist Michael Borremans. 

Borremans’ work is consistently dark and bordering on the occult; he depicts castrated toddlers and headless models in some of his works. 

While Balenciaga is yet to explain how one of his books ended up in the background of its Spring ’23 campaign, it blamed other props – namely a printout of a Supreme Court ruling on child porn – on the set designer Nicholas Des Jardins and North Six. 

But can reveal other similarities between Balenciaga’s designs and Borremans’ work. 

This is the book believed to be featured in the office photoshoot. It features a woman on the cover with her face covered in black. Shown right, Kim Kardashian’s Balenciaga Met Gala look in 2021, where she famously covered her face with black cloth 

The Belgian artist Michael Borremans, pictured in Brussels in 2014, debuting his As Sweet As It Gets collection 

In this image from Balenciaga’s scrapped Spring ’23 campaign, Isabelle Huppert sits in front of a stack of books including one that celebrates Michael Borremans, a Belgian painter whose work is known to include depictions of castrated toddlers

Perhaps the most startling is Borremans’ 2013 painting The Angel, which depicts a woman in a pink dress, standing with her head down, with her face entirely covered in a black tar-like material. 

It bears striking similarities to Balenciaga’s well-publicized 2021 black face coverings, which it paraded down a couture runway.

The trend was debuted by Kim Kardashian at the 2021 Met Gala. She and creative director Demna Gvasalia wore matching black cloths to the event. 

Then there is the 2022 Adidas x Balenciaga show at the New York Stock Exchange, where models marched wearing an array of brightly colored rubber masks.

In a New York Times interview at the end of last month, Demna – who uses only his first name – said he personally wore the mask at the Met Gala because ‘I’ve always had a problem with myself in the mirror’. 

He also referred to the masks as part of his ‘sexual education.’ 

But it’s a theme that appears frequently in Borremans’ work too. 

Borremans’ paintings regularly feature models in masks (left). Balenciaga’s show with Adidas last year (right), in which the models were all sent down the runway in masks 

The 2022 Adidas x Balenciaga show at the New York Stock Exchange, where models marched wearing an array of brightly colored rubber masks

Indeed, his 2015 series, As Sweet As It Gets, features multiple subjects either being masked or already wearing them. 

A dress that is featured heavily in that series – titled The Devil Dress – by Borremans, is also similar to a dress sent down the runway by Balenciaga in 2017 at its Autumn/Winter show. 

Balenciaga is yet to responded to’s inquiries about whether or its designers have been inspired by Borremans or not. 

In the past, artistic director Demna has said he feels most ‘at home’ designing couture for Balenciaga. 

He joined the fashion house in 2015 after designing at Vetements. 

In a 2021 interview with Vanity Fair, he talked of overcoming ‘demons’ from his childhood. 

‘I always felt like a stranger. Everywhere I’ve lived since I was 12, I am an outsider. 

Borremans’ The Devil Dress, part of his The Duck exhibition. The dress is featured in other works by Borremans dating back to 2011

Gowns from Balenciaga’s 2017 Autumn/Winter collection which featured a similar structure to Borremans’ 

Balenciaga’s creative director Demna Gvasalia. He has not yet issued a personal comment 

‘I was a refugee in my own country before I moved to Germany and Belgium, where I was very aware of being foreign. 

‘No one knew where Georgia was. I come from a country people can’t even place on a map. 

‘Then came living in Paris, which can be so xenophobic, and it escalated into a full-on identity crisis. 

‘I didn’t know where I belonged; it kept me in a black hole of depression and anger,’ he said.  

Demna, 41, has been married to husband Loik Gomez since 2017. The pair stopped drinking alcohol together after developing a ‘nocturnal lifestyle’, and live quietly in Switzerland. 

After graduating from college in Georgia, Demna studied at the Royal College of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium. 

He started his fashion career at Maison Margiela, then worked at Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs before launching Vetements in 2014. He took over from Alexander Wang at Balenciaga in 2015. 

Demna has not issued a personal statement on the scandals engulfing the brand, but he has repeatedly shared Balenciaga’s comments. 


The Bondage Bears Christmas campaign 

The scandal erupted when Balenciaga released its 2022 Holiday ad campaign that featured children posing with its Plush Toy Bag. The bags look like teddy bears and are dressed in BDSM gear. 

In the photo shoot, the kids also appeared surrounded by empty wine and champagne glasses. 

The distinctly adult themes immediately troubled many who asked why children had ever been used. 

Balenciaga ignored the scandal at first and seemingly allowed the photographer who was involved, Gabriele Galimberti, to take the heat. 

He released a statement saying he had no control over the content of the shoot and eventually, Balenciaga released its own statement agreeing with him and taking responsibility for the campaign. 

It has now been pulled from the internet. 

The hidden child porn documents 

After the BDSM bears fiasco, eagle-eyed critics started examining the rest of Balenciaga’s campaigns closely. 

They soon discovered that in the background of an image from the Spring ’23 campaign was a printout of a Supreme Court ruling on whether or not internet child porn can be legally considered free speech. 


On the back of the bears scandal, many critics said it pointed to a troubling pattern within Balenciaga. 

Balenciaga was quick to blame North Six, a production company that helped arrange the shoot, for the inclusion of those documents. 

They claimed that they entrusted all of the props from the photoshoot to North Six, and that their team was assured everything that was included was fake. 

The troubling book of artist whose work depicts naked, castrated toddlers 

Balenciaga is yet to answer for the inclusion of a book by Michael Borremans in the background of two of the images from the Spring ’23 campaign. 

Borremans is a Belgian painter whose work includes a troubling 2017 series called Fire From The Sun. 

It depicts naked toddlers – some of them castrated – playing in a group and at times alone. 

Lawyers for the brand are yet to address’s questions about how the book ended up on the photoshoot.  

In this image from Balenciaga’s scrapped Spring ’23 campaign, Isabelle Huppert sits in front of a stack of books including one that celebrates Michael Borremans, a Belgian painter whose work is known to include depictions of castrated toddlers

Borremans’ other work includes his 2017 series Fire From The Sun, which features castrated toddlers and babies holding what look like severed limbs, while playing together nude in a large group

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