Balenciaga Faces Backlash for 2 Eyebrow-Raising Ads

One featured kids with teddy bear bags draped in fetish gear, the other SCOTUS docs on child porn
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 28, 2022 8:45 AM CST
Balenciaga Faces Backlash for 2 Eyebrow-Raising Ads
A woman walks by a boarded-up Balenciaga store on June 2, 2020, on Madison Avenue in New York.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

A fashion giant is under the microscope after two recent ad campaigns went awry, spurring a lawsuit and even dragging Kim Kardashian into the fray. The complaint filed Friday by Balenciaga in the New York State Supreme Court for the County of New York seeks $25 million in damages from production company North Six and set designer Nicholas Des Jardins after a printout of a Supreme Court case on child pornography laws was included in an ad for the high-end fashion house's spring 2023 campaign, reports the Washington Post. In its suit, Balenciaga slams the "extraordinarily reckless" decision to include papers from the 2008 United States v. Williams case in the handbag ad, which it says tied Balenciaga to the "repulsive and deeply disturbing subject of the court decision."

The couturier was already on edge after a second ad campaign had earlier been put on blast for including child models holding plush teddy-bear bags that showed the bears decked out in leather harnesses and other fetish accessories, per the BBC. A tweet drawing attention to the ads went viral, and the criticism commenced. Regarding the first ad, which promoted a handbag created in collaboration with Adidas, an agent for Des Jardins says the legal papers came from a prop house and that Des Jardins is being turned into a "scapegoat" in the matter. "Everyone from Balenciaga was on the shoot and ... worked on the edit of every image in post-production," the agent tells the Post. Meanwhile, Gabriele Galimberti, the National Geographic photographer who shot the teddy bear ad, says he didn't have any input into the models or props used in that shoot.

Balenciaga has since offered a mea culpa for the campaigns, conceding that kids shouldn't have been used in the teddy bears ad—which has now been removed from all of its platforms—and apologizing for "displaying unsettling documents." The fashion house asserts: "We strongly condemn abuse of children in any form." Meanwhile, Kim Kardashian, who regularly collaborates with Balenciaga, is also finally speaking out after critics wondered why she was taking so long to address the controversy, reports People. In a Sunday Twitter thread, the 42-year-old TV personality said she's "been shaken by the disturbing images." "Any attempts to normalize child abuse of any kind should have no place in our society," she wrote, adding she'd spoken with Balenciaga and believes they'll keep this from happening again. Still, she adds that "I am currently re-evaluating my relationship with the brand." (Read more Balenciaga stories.)

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