Over the last few weeks, Balenciaga has been in the spotlight over its latest campaign picturing children holding teddy bears dressed in bondage.
However, this is not the first time a luxury brand has had a complicated, darker side, as Gucci adds its name to this list.
In late 2020, allegations against the iconic fashion brand were made by its very own family member, Alexandra Zarini, the 37-year-old granddaughter of Aldo Gucci. She filed a lawsuit alleging that her stepfather, Joseph Ruffalo, sexually abused her over a period of 16 years.
Zarini alleged that since the age of six, she was subjected to sexual abuse by her step father, Ruffalo until the age of 22. In the lawsuit, Zarini outlines the sexual escalations of defendant Ruffalo.
Further to the allegations of Ruffalo sexually assaulting her, Zarini’s mother, Patricia Gucci, and grandmother, knew of the abuse she endured for years and allegedly groomed her for Ruffalo by allowing him to videotape her naked in the bath and hit her. On top of these massive allegations, Zarini highlights that both women threatened her to remain quiet.
However, after the lawsuit was filed, Patricia Gucci stated that she was, “deeply sorry for the pain Joseph Ruffalo caused Alexandra”.
“What he did to her is inexcusable and I was devastated when she disclosed everything to me at our family doctor’s office in London in September 2007. I immediately initiated divorce proceedings against Mr Ruffalo and set about healing my family through counselling,” she said.
In response to the allegations, Patricia and her grandmother denied the allegations.
“I am equally devastated by the allegations against me and her grandmother, which are completely false,” said Patricia.
Gucci’s lawyers outlined that Patricia was not negligent due to the absence of her not knowing what happened until her daughter reached the age of 22. In a statement provided to the court, it outlined, “Once Ms. Zarini disclosed the abuse, Ms. Gucci was devastated, she immediately separated from and divorced Mr. Ruffalo and he never again sexually abused Ms. Zarini. She also set about healing her family through counselling.”
And Mr Ruffalo? His lawyer, Richard P. Crane responded, “My client has not been served and has not read the complaint. Therefore, he is not aware of all of the allegations that the Complaint contains. What he has been informed of, he vehemently and categorically denies. While married to Alexandra’s mother, Mr. Ruffalo and his wife were greatly concerned about the mental well-being of Alexandra and took steps to address her instability. Apparently, their efforts failed.”
Selling the brand to Kering
The Gucci family is known for its drama, as depicted in House of Gucci, the 2021 film starring Lady Gaga and showing the plot to murder Maurizio Gucci. But the Gucci Family has not been associated with the Gucci brand since selling in 1993. Gucci was acquired by Kering, which is a luxury powerhouse that also manages Balenciaga.
With a dark history behind both of these luxury brands, do consumers need to be more conscious of where they spend their money?