A year before the Balenciaga scandal sent shockwaves through its parent company, The Kering Group, executives ignored an offer from Gucci heiress Alexandra Zarini to work together to prevent child sexual abuse in the industry, DailyMail.com can reveal.
Executives from Zarini’s charity emailed representatives from both Kering and Gucci last October, hoping to create a partnership to crack down on social media images and the use of children in fashion campaigns.
The Kering Group, led by Francois-Henri Pinault, is a French fashion powerhouse: it owns both Balenciaga and Gucci, along with Bottega Venetta, Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen, and is worth €65 billion.
The company has not released a statement on the Balenciaga scandal that involved the use of bondage-style bears in one photo shoot and legal child pornography documents in another. The second photo shoot also included a book by a Belgian artist whose work depicts naked, castrated toddlers.
Neither Zarini nor the Gucci family has had any business involvement with the fashion label since the 1990s, but she attempted to collaborate with the brand founded by her great-grandfather.
Gucci declined the offer and complained about her use of her family’s name in the charity’s marketing materials. Kering Group executives did not respond to her requests.
Francois-Henri Pinault, the CEO of The Kering Group, is pictured with wife Salma Hayek Pinault. The Kering Group has not commented on the Balenciaga scandal
Alexandra Zarini, whose great-grandfather Guccio founded the fashion house Gucci. She told DailyMail.com in an interview that her exchanges with The Kering Group showed that more work still needs to be done in the industry to protect children
On November 23 of this year, after the Balenciaga scandal erupted, representatives of The Alexandra Gucci Children’s Foundation sent another offer to work together.
Once again, Kering Group representatives chose not to comment.
‘My foundation had approached Kering and Gucci in 2021 about this topic as a whole.
“As a survivor myself, I was very concerned about the safety of children in the fashion industry, but also about the safety of young girls.
“I was very concerned about the safety of children and the fact that they are being exposed to these campaigns through social media.
“A global partnership for the prevention of child sexual abuse was offered to Kering – they didn’t seem to see the need or any effort on their part,” Alexandra told DailyMail.com in an interview.
Kering representatives did not respond to questions, but a Gucci spokesperson told DailyMail.com that the company declined the offer due to the trademark dispute.
A global partnership for the prevention of child sexual abuse was offered to Kering – they did not seem to see the need or any effort on their part
“To protect the distinctiveness of its own trademarks, Gucci was not in a position to enter into any form of collaboration,” they said.
Gucci’s corporate lawyers have repeatedly asked Zarini to stop using her family’s name to market her charity for the protection of her children, “so as not to create confusion in the public domain between the activities of the Foundation and the Gucci brand and its social impact and philanthropic activities.”
A source close to the situation said it would have been strange for the parent company to partner with Zarini when it was embroiled in a trademark dispute.
However, Zarini saw it as an opportunity to work with the company to combat child sexual abuse in the fashion industry.
She was disgusted by the Balenciaga campaign this month, which she says demonstrates her biggest concerns about the use of children in campaigns.
‘I was completely outraged. I was devastated and disgusted by everything I saw. I couldn’t believe this was a campaign for Balenciaga. When I saw this I thought “this is just awful.”
‘It’s a big fashion label and it’s very closely related to my family name. It’s completely unacceptable.’
Zarini is currently embroiled in a lawsuit against her own mother and grandmother over her allegations that they failed to stop her stepfather, Joseph Ruffalo, from sexually assaulting her from age six to age 22. Patricia and her mother do not dispute Alexandra’s claim that she was abused, but they say they were unaware of it at the time and therefore could not have prevented it.
Her own experience as a victim of abuse fuels her desire to protect children now.
The Kering Group owns both Balenciaga and Gucci, along with Bottega Veneta, Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen
Balenciaga’s gift campaign, in which models for young children posed with BDSM-style bears on a set staged to look like a party
Outrage: There is continued anger over Balenciaga’s campaigns. Actress Anna Lynne McCord leads a protest outside the Rodeo Drive store earlier this month
“The silence we’re seeing now from the fashion industry on the Balenciaga campaign in general, with hardly anyone speaking out about how wrong this is, hardly anyone anyway, it has so many similarities to my own story personally and to so many survivors.
“In any case, there is at least one or a few adults or entities that chose to look away. In my case it was my family.’
Balenciaga’s creative director Demna is allowed to continue in the role despite growing outrage over the use of children in a bondage-style shoot
She believes the Balenciaga scandal — and the brand’s response to it — highlights a widespread problem within an industry that has emerged from the #MeToo era relatively unscathed and has sailed past major boycotts.
“The fashion industry has a long history of sexual abuse of young women, young girls and children and this problem has never been addressed.
“If you look at the campaigns of recent years, this exploitation of children has only increased.
“There is a desire to go the extra mile every time to shock and make headlines. I definitely think the response threw it at someone else. It’s almost gaslighting and minimizing.’
However, she does not believe that a boycott of the brand would solve the problem.
“I don’t think cutting ties with the brand is necessarily the right move because this is really the opportunity to make the biggest change in history when it comes to protecting children in the fashion industry.
“We need to get rid of the idea of ’what’s the best marketing idea’ and ‘what’s the best campaign’, we need to think about what we can do now so that in a few years we can look back and say that we a Change.
“The reality is that this is literally 20 or 30 years too late. We have to make change.’
Alexandra is suing her mother, Patricia Gucci (pictured right with her father, Alexandra’s grandfather Aldo Gucci) for negligence. She claims that for years as a child, her mother failed to prevent her from being sexually abused by her stepfather
The Alexandra Gucci Children’s Foundation is committed to preventing child sexual abuse
“No stone should be left unturned at Kering — no creative, no executive, no one should stay with these companies if they believe these photo shoots are the right thing to do,” she said.
The company allows creative director Demna, who signs for all shoots, to remain in his position.
He apologized last week after weeks of silence and vowed to do more for children’s charities.
The Alexandra Gucci Children’s Foundation has not heard from the Kering Group or Balenciaga since the scandal broke.
Kering has its own foundation – The Kering Foundation – which fights against violence against women. As a company, Gucci is a partner of UNICEF.
Alexandra, who lives in Los Angeles with her family, is looking for partners in the industry to work with to prevent further damage.
She had hoped to start with the brand that bears her family’s name.
Balenciaga has apologized for the photoshoot and promised to work with children’s rights groups to do better in the future, but has not fired or suspended any of those involved in the photoshoot.