Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Balenciaga condemns child abuse in new statement addressing controversial ads

Celebrities including Kim Kardashian have condemned brand’s recent ad campaigns

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Monday 28 November 2022 20:51 GMT
Related: Kim Kardashian ‘shaken’ by Balenciaga’s ‘disturbing’ advertising campaign

Balenciaga has issued a new statement “strongly condemning” child abuse while addressing the fallout over its controversial ad campaigns involving children.

On Monday, Balenciaga shared a new statement to Instagram, where the luxury fashion house said it “would like to address the controversies surrounding our recent ad campaigns”.

In the post, the designer brand wrote: “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.”

Balenciaga has faced widespread backlash over two recent ad campaigns involving children. One of the ads, the designer’s gift collection campaign, featured children posing with the brand’s teddy bear purses, which critics pointed out appear to be wearing BDSM and bondage-inspired accessories. The second ad under scrutiny is Balenciaga’s Spring 2023 campaign, for its use of a printout of a Supreme Court decision on child pornography.

In the new statement, Balenciaga proceeded to address the issues with each specific campaign, with the designer noting that its plush bear bag campaign, shot by National Geographic photographer Gabriele Galimberti, “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 company writes.

As for the second campaign, Balenciaga said the set was “meant to replicate a business office environment”. The backdrop, which was used to promote the brand’s collaboration with Adidas, featured purses displayed atop the 2008 Supreme Court case United States v Williams, which criminalised the pandering of child pornography. 

According to Balenciaga, “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,” Balenciaga continued. “The inclusion of these unapproved documents was the result of reckless negligence for which Balenciaga has filed a complaint.”

On 25 November, Balenciaga filed a lawsuit against production company North Six Inc and its agent, Nicholas Des Jardins, for engaging in “inexplicable acts and omissions” that were “malevolent or, at the very least, extraordinarily reckless”.

Balenciaga is seeking $25m in monetary damages.

While the brand is suing the production company over the campaign, Balenciaga noted in the statement that it takes “full accountability for our lack of oversight and control of the documents in the background”.

“We could have done things differently,” the brand acknowledged.

In the statement, Balenciaga then said that amid ongoing internal and external investigations into the campaigns, the brand would be taking additonal actions to ensure similar issues do not occur in the future.

According to Balenciaga, these actions include “closely revising our organisation and collective ways of working” and “reinforcing the structures around our creative processes and validation steps”.

“We want to ensure that new controls mark a pivot and will prevent this from happening again,” the company continued.

Balenciaga also said, going forward, it will be working with organisations that “specialise in child protection” and aim to end “child abuse and exploitation”.

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

The company’s latest statement comes after Balenciaga apologised for the since-removed ads last week, shortly after social media users began to condemn the campaigns.

“We sincerely apologise for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused,” Balenciaga said in a statement. “Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign. We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms.”

In a follow-up statement, the brand addressed the campaign that displayed “unsettling documents,” with Balenciaga noting that it takes the matter “seriously” and would be taking legal action.

Amid the backlash over the campaigns, celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, who has a long working relationship with Balenciaga, have shared statements of their own regarding the controversy.

Kardashian condemned the images in a statement shared on Sunday, in which the Skims founder said she was “re-evaluating” her relationship with the brand.

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

“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.”

The Independent has contacted Balenciaga and Adidas for comment.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in