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Harry Styles advert for Gucci sparks fresh row after Balenciaga campaign scandal

An ad campaign from Kering-owned Gucci is facing backlash just weeks after a similar controversy over Balenciaga ads featuring children

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Tuesday 20 December 2022 09:12 GMT

Related: Kim Kardashian ‘shaken’ by Balenciaga’s ‘disturbing’ advertising campaign

A Gucci ad featuring Harry Styles has become the subject of criticism after some questioned the appropriateness of the child-like imagery featured in the campaign.

The backlash over the “HA HA HA” Gucci campaign ad, which comes just weeks after similar criticism directed at Balenciaga’s recent campaigns featuring children, centres around the props and clothing choices, with Styles posing next to a toddler-size mattress while modelling a teddy bear T-shirt.

In one photo, the “As It Was” singer stands in front of a small mattress with his hands in his pockets. Others showed Styles carrying the bed under his arm.

“A performance piece starring Harry Styles and the Gucci HA HA HA collection. Discover the campaign at the link in bio,” Gucci captioned the photos in a recent Instagram post.

On Gucci’s website, it elaborated on the meaning behind the November campaign, writing: “The House presents the Gucci HA HA HA campaign featuring British singer-songwriter and actor, Harry Styles.

“Arising from the friendship between him and creative director Alessandro Michele, play is at the very heart of the collection, which uses menswear as a tool of the avant-garde. Captured by Mark Borthwick, the series of images sees Harry Styles showcase the ‘dream wardrobe’ defined by the eccentric use of romantic accents, whimsical prints, vintage details, and the expressive emotionality of the individual.”

The ad was originally shot in November and conceptualised under Michele, who has since left his role as creative director at the company. Styles has been the face of Gucci for several years.

While speaking to GQ about the campaign in November, Michele said the shoot was inspired by “eccentric men” from the 70s.

“And so we went really close to the things that are very difficult to find in vintage, or things that apparently belong to an era that, in a way, doesn’t exist anymore,” he added.

On social media, many critics have suggested the ad campaign includes inappropriate imagery, especially in light of the Balenciaga ad campaigns, which featured children posing with teddy bears dressed in BDSM-inspired accessories. Others noted that both Gucci and Balenciaga are both owned by French luxury owner The Kering Group.

“What in the Balenciaga is going on here? Wake up, people!” one person commented under Gucci’s recent post, while another said: “Why is a toddler bed in this? Why the teddy bear shirt? What is the angle? Aside from strange?”

“This is not acceptable at all,” someone else claimed.

The ad was also condemned by Alexandra Gucci Zarini, the great-granddaughter of Gucci’s founder, Guccio Gucci.

@gucci Why would you create a ‘performance piece’ with a toddler’s mattress and an adult man?” Zarini wrote on Instagram last week, where she also shared photos of Styles in the campaign. “My concerns are that there seems to be a common ideology across Kering’s Fashion Houses.”

Zarini notably founded The Alexandra Gucci Children’s Foundation, which combats child sexual abuse, as pointed out by theDailyMail,

Her post sparked renewed outrage over the Gucci campaign, with one person revealing that the photos left them “appalled”.

“At first glance, I appreciate the colour and composition, then I look closer and use my intellect and I am appalled. They didn’t need to use these props and childlike images to achieve this feel. The question is, WHY??? Why would they choose these pieces? Sick!!” they wrote.

The backlash over the Gucci campaign comes after Balenciaga was embroiled in controversy over two of its recent ads. In addition to the ad campaign featuring children posing with the brand’s teddy bear handbags, Balenciaga also released an ad that included Supreme Court documents pertaining to child pornography.

The company has since apologised for both ads, while noting that it “strongly condemns” child abuse and never intended to “include it in our narrative”.

As of now, neither Styles or Gucci have addressed the backlash over the ad.

The Independent has contacted Gucci, Kering, and a representative for Styles for comment.

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