On Monday, luxury fashion brand Balenciaga released a long-awaited statement regarding their recent ad campaigns that sexualized children and promoted child pornography. The campaign that gained the most initial attention is their holiday campaign which featured young children holding stuffed animals that are dressed in bondage gear. Another series of photos – part of their spring/summer 2023 collection campaign – showed one of their handbags resting on top of a court document from a Supreme Court case regarding virtual child pornography. The fashion company’s PR department has been in full crisis mode trying to rectify the situation and save its public image.

After days of being heavily ridiculed and shamed for their ad campaigns, Balenciaga filed a $25 million lawsuit against the producers responsible for the campaign that included the child pornography court documents. The suit was filed against the production company North Six, Inc. and set designer Nicholas Des Jardins.

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The Manhattan Supreme Court summons states that the case is seeking “redress for extensive damages defendants caused in connection with an advertising campaign Balenciaga hired them to produce,” and claims that the inclusion of the court documents in the advertisement without the fashion company’s knowledge was “malevolent or, at the very least, extraordinarily reckless.”

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“As a result of Defendants’ misconduct, members of the public, including the news media, have falsely and horrifically associated Balenciaga with the repulsive and deeply disturbing subject of the court decision,” the court filing states. “Defendants are liable to Balenciaga for all harm resulting from this false accusation.”

Days after the court filing, Balenciaga released a statement on Instagram regarding the inappropriate advertisements:

“We would like to address the controversies surrounding our recent ad campaigns. We strongly condemn child abuse; It was never our intent to include it in our narrative. The two separate ad campaigns in question reflect a series of grievous errors for which Balenciaga takes responsibility. 

The first campaign, the Gift Collection campaign, featured children with plush bear bags dressed in what some have labeled BDSM-inspired outfits. Our plush bear bags and the Gift Collection should not have been featured with children. This was a wrong choice by Balenciaga, combined with our failure in assessing and validating images. The responsibility for this lies with Balenciaga alone.

The second, separate campaign for Spring 2023, which was meant to replicate a business office environment, included a photo with a page in the background from a Supreme Court ruling ‘United States v. Williams’ 2008 which confirms as illegal and not protected by freedom of speech the promotion of child pornography. All the items included in this shooting were provided by third parties that confirmed in writing that these props were fake office documents. They turned out to be [real legal] papers most likely coming from the filming of a television drama. The inclusion of these unapproved documents was the result of reckless negligence for which Balenciaga has filed a complaint. We take full accountability for our lack of oversight and control of the documents in the background and we could have done things differently.

[…]

We want to learn from our mistakes and identify ways we can contribute. Balenciaga reiterates its sincere apologies for the offense we have caused and extends its apologies to talents and partners.”

 

The photographer who shot the campaign featuring BDSM teddy bears, yet another involved party, released his own statement on Wednesday after the ads were pulled. The photographer, Gabriele Galimberti, issued the statement on Instagram, saying he felt compelled to speak out after receiving a mass amount of hate mail.

“I am not in a position to comment on Balenciaga’s choices, but I must stress that I was not entitled in whatsoever manner to neither chose the products, nor the models, nor the combination of the same,” wrote Galimberti. “I was only and solely requested to [light] the given scene, and take shots according to my signature style.”

“Accusations like these are addressed against wrong targets, and distract from the real problem, criminals,” Galimberti added.

The photographer also clarified that he was not connected to the campaign that included the SCOTUS documents, saying that it was “taken in another set by other people and was falsely associated with [his] photos.”

Many people pushed back against Galimberti’s defense, claiming that he should have refused to photograph the scenes that he did. One Twitter user posted, saying, “Hey Photographers: When Balenciaga hires you to shoot their new lookbook & you show up to find a toddler laid across a sofa with wine glasses & bondage gear arranged around them, you walk away. Period.”

Kim Kardashian, who has a close partnership with the brand, released a series of tweets on Sunday condemning the fashion company. Despite her “disgust” with Balenciaga’s campaigns, she did not cut ties with the company.

“I have been quiet for the past few days, not because I haven’t been disgusted and outraged by the recent Balenciaga campaigns, but because I wanted an opportunity to speak to their team to understand for myself how this could have happened,” Kardashian wrote.

“As a mother of four, I have been shaken by the disturbing images. The safety of children must be held with the highest regard and any attempts to normalize child abuse of any kind should have no place in our society – period.”

“I appreciate Balenciaga’s removal of the campaigns and apology,” she added. “In speaking with them, I believe they understand the seriousness of the issue and will take the necessary measures for this to never happen again.”

Addressing her future with Balenciaga, Kardashian said that she is “re-evaluating” her relationship with them, based on their “willingness to accept accountability… & the actions [she is] expecting to see them take to protect children.”

Podcast host Chase Geiser was among the many commenters who criticized Kim for her halfhearted condemnation of Balenciaga and her failure to drop them as a partner. Geiser wrote, “Kim Kardashian got a divorce over a MAGA hat but is trying to work things out with a pedophile business.”

Youtuber Blaire White also tore into Kim for not cutting ties with the brand, saying that she is “obviously kicking the ball down the road so [she] can continue [her] business relationship with them once this blows over.”

“It’s not difficult to draw the line at child porn, and your inability to do so is telling,” White added.

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