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Balenciaga caught stealing from a Vietnamese artist

Published: August 3, 2020
Balenciaga has not only been called out for blatant stealing of the design, but also for culturally appropriating it without giving the artist credits or recognizing the purpose.

When Cardi B in her song ‘I Like it’ sings about ‘Those Balenciagas, the ones that look like socks,’ everyone can immediately picture the ones shes talking about.

While the design of those shoes is iconic, and seeing it anywhere you’d immediately know the brand, that does not seem to be the case for all of Balenciaga’s designs.

One of Balenciaga’s designs may not be completely original, as a post on their Instagram page has recently drawn backlash, for having stolen the idea in its entirety from an Vietnamese student.

The design is clothes draped over a scooter in different forms, covering the vehicle.

Aesthetic, right? Not original. Even the comments on the post call out Balenciaga for its blatant copying skills, and the original artist, a Vietnamese student in Germany has called out the brand.

“I am not your moood board,” she writes explaining how they stole the idea from her.

“Rooted in my own family history, from my mother selling her mother bike in order to migrate to Germany, Vietnamese motorbike culture have been a core focus of my work for the past few years,” Nguyen explains. “I feel betrayed and hurt as it’s a part of my culture, it’s an artistic process and not a random fashionable aesthetic you can profit on!”

Diet Prada posted about the blatant idea-theft, posting both the images side-by-side to call her out. They summed up the story, “In June 2019, artist Tra My Nguyen , then a student at Berlin University of the Arts, explored Vietnam’s female motorbike culture for her master’s project. Drawing inspiration from her own family history wherein her mother sold her bike in order to immigrate to Germany, she collaged and wrapped clothing over motorbikes to create “wearable sculptures.”

The next month, a “recruiter” from Balenciaga attended a master’s presentation and requested Nguyen’s portfolio. Already in hand, she followed up again in October with a request for photos of her current collection. The Balenciaga creative development strategist, whose position was verified through LinkedIn, told Nguyen they were looking for interns. After sending her portfolio with multiple process images, she never received a reply.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Now, Balenciaga’s Instagram feed shows a near identical image to Nguyen’s sculpture, but wrapped in Balenciaga clothing. Even the backdrop and angle of the photograph is uncannily similar, though the caption made no mention of the inspiration or credit to Nguyen.

As the creative director of Balenciaga, Demna Gvasalia knows full well the power a luxury brand has to elevate the work of independent creatives. For his inaugural Balenciaga SS17 menswear collection, he tapped British menswear designer Martine Rose to consult. Rose, then a relative outsider who founded her label a decade prior, was encouraged by Gvasalia to publicize their partnership, which elevated her profile and was pivotal in growing her namesake business. But too often, brands choose the easier route of copying, while unwittingly leaving a trail of receipts.”

Balenciaga has so far, not responded to the allegations, or pulled the post down from its Instagram despite it being one of their most popular ones, simply because of the number of comments of backlash from people.

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