Balenciaga has courted controversy in recent ad campaigns involving, among other things, images of children holding handbags made to look like teddy bears in sexual bondage gear and photos of paperwork about child pornography laws. The brand issued a series of apologies as did both its CEO and lead designer.
The controversy led to claims that Balenciaga’s name is Latin for “Baal Is King.” Baal was a Phonecian deity of the ancient Near East who features in the Hebrew Bible and is thought to have demanded the ritual sacrifice of children. Balenciaga’s alleged clandestine homage to this figure in the brand’s own name has been taken by some as evidence of demonic sway over the haute couture juggernaut.
One Instagram user posted a photo from another ad campaign in which the brand does indeed choose to spell its own name provocatively as “BAALENCIAGA on a roll of masking tape. Other posts, linked above, have circulated claiming to show “Baal Is King” as the English translation of the Latin “Baal Enci Aga” on Google translate. All of these claims are false. “Baal Enci Aga” is not a Latin phrase. Translated into Latin, the sentence “Baal Is King” would read “Baal rex est.”
“Balenciaga” is, in fact, the surname of the brand’s Spanish founder, Cristóbal Balenciaga. It’s a name native to the Basque region of Spain, where Mr. Balenciaga was born in 1895.
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