Try as she might, Kim Kardashian is having a difficult time distancing herself from the separate controversies engulfing her ex-husband Kanye West and the luxury fashion house Balenciaga, her lucrative fashion brand partner.
West, of course, is the father of Kardashian’s four children. In a parenting capacity, the reality TV star has to deal with the fallout from his antisemitic rages, denial of the Holocaust and association with a notorious white supremacist, as well as his pariah status in American culture and his periodic accusations that she was an unfaithful spouse or an unfit mother.
But the rapper and Yeezy designer also looms large in Kardashian’s current status and wealth as a fashion star. So does Balenciaga.
Because of Kardashian’s personal relationship with West, people suspect she’s been reluctant to condemn his controversial statements more forcefully over the years. In the case of Balenciaga, people think the Skims shapewear founder is motivated by money and professional status to not cut ties with the French-based fashion house, even after it made the controversial decision to showcase toddler girls in a bondage-themed ad for teddy bear purses.
Celebrity reputation expert Lauren Beeching said that Kardashian’s statement this week, expressing “disgust” and “outrage” over Balenciaga’s BDSM-themed holiday campaign, was rightly criticized as coming across as insincere. Kardashian made it easy for people to believe she doesn’t care about children’s welfare but is mostly worried about losing a highly lucrative partnership and the “huge opportunities” it’s given her “to be respected in the fashion world,” Beeching said in an interview with The Sun.
“These things often come down to the money involved in these possible partnerships,” Beeching said.
Kardashian was torched online for her statement, first, because it came a week after the controversy first erupted. By the time Kardashian finally spoke up, Balenciaga had already apologized for featuring children in its campaign, which also contained a child-porn reference. It also had removed the ad images from its social media platforms. Kardashian was furthermore criticized for refusing to fully cut ties with the fashion house, instead saying that she was “reevaluating” her relationship with the brand.
“It’s also what we call a temporary statement, with it being on her Instagram story it suggests that this isn’t something she wants to attach herself to,” Beeching said. She said Kardashian’s response probably was delayed because, behind the scenes, her team was holding meetings with Balenciaga “to come to an agreement on her response following the public pressure.”
It appears that Kardashian tried to save face over the Balenciaga controversy in other ways this week. She allowed news to leak that she had already done some of her reevaluating and decided to reject Balenciaga’s offer to do a 2023 campaign, as TMZ reported. She also decided to not wear Balenciaga clothing at events she’ll attend in coming months, and has contacted other designers about dressing her.
Meanwhile, Kardashian has been publicly silent about her ex-husband’s latest disturbing behavior, including his antisemitic tirades during an interview with Alex Jones, and his threatening rants on Twitter that got him booted off the platform by Elon Musk late Thursday night. That said, Kardashian apparently let sources close to her talk to the Daily Mail and denounce West, who legally changed his name to Ye, for making the claim that she had an affair with Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul.
The source told the Daily Mail that the untrue claim was part of an “ongoing” effort by West, who has a history of mental illness, to smear his ex-wife.
“This is not true and sadly it’s an ongoing pattern with Kanye — attacking Kim to redirect everyone’s attention after a day of crazy antics where he has said every hateful and offensive thing he can possibly dream of,” the source said.
It’s also been an ongoing pattern with Kardashian to avoid “poking the bear,” so to speak, when it comes to her ex-husband’s increasingly incendiary actions. Kardashian has usually stayed silent, indulged him,, or gone on the “Ellen DeGeneres Show” to normalize his behavior or defend him as a misunderstood genius who has a right to his opinions. In 2020, when West launched his failed presidential campaign by bizarrely revealing that he and Kardashian had briefly considered aborting their oldest child, she asked the public for understanding by explaining that he was in the midst of a manic episode due to his bipolar disorder.
Aside from their personal relationship, Kardashian may other reasons for not publicly criticizing West. For one thing, she now counts on him paying $200,000 a month in child support. Professionally, she also has admitted that he played a major role in transforming her from a tacky reality TV star who dressed in exaggerated styles into a sleek style icon who can sit front row at Paris fashion week and become a brand ambassador for a luxury designer like Balenciaga, Us Weekly said.
“I really think that my relationship with my husband Kanye changed everything,” Kardashian told CNN Style in 2016. “I mean, back in the day, I thought I had the best style. I look back at outfits and I’m, like, mortified.”
West famously overhauled her closet during an episode of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” in 2012 and introduced her to his connections in high-fashion, including Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, landing her invitations to appear in Vogue magazine and to become a regular at the Met Gala.
It also appears that West was responsible for Kardashian becoming “the face” of Balenciaga in recent years. He enjoyed a long and close relationship with creative director Demna Gvasalia, the New York Times reported. “Ye gave Balenciaga the aura of relevance and a new audience; Balenciaga provided the high-fashion embrace Ye craved. Together, they became a viral sensation,” the New York Times said.
Kardashian helped push the likes and page views for Balenciaga when she began to wearing the designer’s dramatic silhouettes in public, including at the 2021 Met Gala or when modeling a Balenciaga wedding gown to the 2021 release party for West’s “Donda” album.
“Balenciaga allowed Kim to be seen as a brand influence and fashion leader, which was pivotal for her gaining respect from the fashion industry,” Beeching told The Sun.
Balenciaga ended his partnership with West in October after the rapper wore a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt at his brand’s Paris Fashion Week show, then launched antisemitic screeds on social media and on Fox News. But in a strange twist that’s all too typical of West, the disgraced designer expressed support for Balenciaga after his ex-wife condemned the fashion house for its controversial ad.
In one of his final tweets before being suspended Thursday, West wrote, “I stand by Balenciaga and denounce all witch hunts and I cancel cancel culture Jesus is King Ending trafficking doesn’t start or end with a fashion campaign for Christ Sake.”