Harry Potter by Balenciaga

“You’ll soon find out that some fashion is better than others Potter” – Draco Malfoy

“Avada Balenciaga”, “Wingardium Balenciaga” and “Expecto Balenciagum” prove to be seductive spells conjured by three AI generated videos entitled ‘Harry Potter by Balenciaga’, spanning over 16 million views.

Created by Youtube user ‘demonflyingfox’ this is the Harry Potter universe we never knew we needed. Comprised of familiar witches, wizards and of course Dobby, chiselled sorcerers oozing polished style adorn stoic expressions and pouts akin to those of Balenciaga campaigns while flashing through sequences expressing the importance of Demna Gvasalia’s garmental creations, accompanied by intense EDM music beats in the background of course.

Bizarrely mesmerising and weirdly hypnotic, AI tools such as ChatGPT are used to generate prompts from a request such as: “Now, act as a Balenciaga fashion designer with 20 years of experience. I want you to dress each of these 10 characters in a unique Balenciaga piece for a runway show. Just write the name of the character and the piece. Remember, it’s a 1990 fashion show.” Upon this ChatGPT will respond with something along the lines of: “Luna Lovegood: Whimsical, iridescent bubble dress with a mesh overlay, adorned with sequins and beads”, or “Draco Malfoy: Tailored, double-breasted pinstripe suit with a crisp white dress shirt and silk pocket square.”

Another tool, Midjourney, is then used to translate the text to images, while other programs are then used to generate similar voice tones to the characters which will then be animated for mouths to move with sounds of Balenciaga. Notable tones include: “There is no good and evil, there is only Balenciaga and those too weak to seek it” – Voldermort. “You are Balenciaga Harry” – Hagrid. “It’s Balenciaga not Balenciega” – Hermione If this campaign were real, it would have cost millions in production fees, instead anyone, not just skilled AI users, can make this in less than an hour.

This begs the question, is this beneficial for Balenciaga? Despite free advertising promoting brand recognition, garnering over 16 million views, it would be thought so, but it may prove to do more harm to do their IP.

Fundamentally the brand has no control over what is released, hence losing command of their representation and identity, which takes generations to carefully curate to the ideologies and cues the brand takes on, this will not be something any proprietor will be keen on. Using a brands name without permission can leave the perpetrator subject to copyright infringement as it depicts association with the said organisation without prior permission.

Speaking to Forbes, intellectual property attorney Milton Springnut said: “Memes that use Balenciaga’s intellectual property in this way could potentially damage the brand’s reputation, justifying legal action.” As one of the most recognisable brands for its provocative imagery and aesthetic in high fashion, Balenciaga has always been about conceptual designs and how it accedes the culture, with clothes made after concept, allowing it to be a prominent figurehead for anything dark and moody within pop culture, blurring the lines for artists between what is a clear copyright violation and what is an original creation.

These blurred lines can mask legal issues, attorney Springut said: “Memes are often created and shared for humourous or satirical purposes and could be found to be commentary or parody protected under the doctrine of fair use. “Since memes are generally regarded as a form of cultural expression and social commentary, Balenciaga may find that taking legal action could lead to negative publicity and retaliation from consumers who enjoy the memes, ultimately affecting their support of the brand. “Balenciaga could have a sense of humour and choose to let the memes disseminate as a form of free publicity or as a way to connect with a younger audience.”

Also speaking to Forbes, Alessandro Balossini Volpe, professor of business management shared a similar perspective: “Brand awareness can spread at the speed of light, particularly among the volatile, scarcely loyal younger generation. The potential impact on brand image can be very strong, as brands are instantly perceived as the most advanced, forward-thinking expressions of contemporary culture.” In spite of brand promotion if Balenciaga continues to allow scores of memes and content attributed to their ‘conceptual being’ it risks beoming a fad or joke.

Since Harry, countless brands and studio IP’s have succumbed to AI treatment, prominent videos entitled ‘by Balenciaga’ include Breaking Bad, Batman, Friends, Communism and even World Presidents, no topic is off limits. Gucci has also been given the ‘by Gucci’ stamp, with Matrix, DC and Game of Thrones following suit. Even individuals aren’t safe, as a meteoric rise in videos entitled ‘by Wes Anderson’ has proven popular among creators, but less so with Anderson.

Speaking to The Times, Anderson said: “I’m very good at protecting myself from seeing all that stuff. If somebody sends me something like that, I’ll immediately erase it and say, ‘Please, sorry, do not send me things of people doing me. Because I do not want to look at it, thinking, ‘Is that what I do? Is that what I mean?’ I don’t want to see too much of someone else thinking about what I try to be because, God knows, I could then start doing it.”

Most recently, original creator ‘demonflyingfox’ produced Harry Potter in Italy, illustrating Harry and the clan as mafiosos, in which a godfatheresque Dumbledore tells Harry, “Predicting the future is very difficult business indeed”, not so much the case in the future of AI implications in fashion.