United24 was launched on May 5, 2022 to act as the "main venue for collecting charitable donations in support of Ukraine," as stated on their official website. So far, the charity has raised nearly $233 million. Demna Gvasalia, creative director of Balenciaga – who some people believe is behind the brand's recent disturbing Gift Shop campaign – became an ambassador for United24 just two months after its launch. President Zelenskyy himself thanked Demna's support of Ukraine during the Balenciaga Winter '22 show in March 2022, when the creative director shared his personal experience as a refugee.
"Thank you for your support, it is very much appreciated. It is extremely important to keep the world's attention on Ukraine in order to help rebuild our country," said Zelenskyy. The Balenciaga show featured models who strutted in the most lavish, designer outfits through fake snowfall. But it wasn't about fashion, according to Demna. “Fashion doesn’t matter now. The message must be love and peace, and fashion has to assume a strong position in this crisis," he says.
Demna, who is a refugee from Georgia, shared his thoughts on being an ambassador on his Instagram in July: "I am honored to become a United24 ambassador. I know very well and feel the pain that Ukrainians are going through. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can help Ukraine and all the refugees who want to return home. That is why I decided to focus on the humanitarian direction 'Ukraine Recovery'. And the special sweatshirt that we created at Balenciaga will be a kind of message of support for Ukraine."
Thanks to Demna's partnership with Zelenskyy and United24, Balenciaga created long-sleeved shirts depicting the Ukrainian flag and the country's coat of arms. For $261.80, you, too, can help Ukrainian refugees.
Of course, those who are now critical of Demna were quick to question him and Zelenskyy’s actions: “Oh wow Creative Director for Balenciaga became the ambassador for Ukraine Recovery program designed to help temporarily displaced people,” writes @Oleyb3. “So the guy who rubber stamped the bdsm child photos was helping Ukraine with their homeless? Does that include kids?”
This month, Balenciaga fueled outrage for featuring children in inappropriate campaign photos. Their other pictures displayed documents discussing virtual child pornography and books on disturbing subjects. The luxury brand has since issued an apology and filed a lawsuit against the company North Six Inc. and Nicholas Des Jardins LLC, who they say are responsible for the photos. However, North Six and a representative for Nicholas Des Jardins LLC have stated they were not involved with the production of the images of teddy bears in bondage gear.
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