Backlash Continues After Balenciaga Pulls Ads With Children, Bondage Gear

Caden Pearson
By Caden Pearson
November 24USshare

Fashion brand Balenciaga has apologized after debuting two ad campaigns that created controversy for being suggestive of child sexual abuse themes.

One of the ad campaigns features images of child models with adult fetish-themed plush bear bags, and a separate campaign includes imagery of a U.S. Supreme Court case document related to child sexual abuse material.

Following the online backlash to the images, which were used in different ad campaigns—one for Balenciaga Objects and the other for its Spring 23 collection—the company deleted the campaign featuring the young child models from its social media platforms.

“We sincerely apologize for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused. Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign. We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms,” Balenciaga said in a statement on Instagram, shared by Demna Gvasalia, the company’s creative director.

Balenciaga Objects Campaign

The ad campaign for Balenciaga Objects, shot by Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti, features a series of images of young child models with the company’s new diverse line of products ahead of Christmas, such as homeware, pet accessories, scents, and ornaments.

One photo in the Balenciaga Objects campaign shows a child holding a white plush bear bag themed link a punk rocker. The bear wears a rave-style black mesh shirt, a choker with a thick padlock around its neck, and black straps around its wrists and ankles.

Another photo shows a different child model holding a purple plush bear bag that wears attire typically associated with the adult bondage fetish.

A third blue plush bear bag appears in at least two more photos with child models positioned in the set design.

The campaign images’ composition and staging are evocative of Galimberti’s “Toy Stories” series, which also features children surrounded by objects.

Not Clear What Balenciaga Knew About Photoshoot

The Balenciaga Objects campaign debuted on Nov. 16, according to reports, before it was taken down a week later.

It’s not clear if the plush bear bags were part of the Balenciaga Objects collection for sale or appeared as additional props in the campaign photoshoot.

Some online coverage of the collection’s launch earlier this month didn’t mention the bags. One outlet, Numeromag, has deleted its webpage about the collection.

The Epoch Times contacted Galimberti for comment regarding Balenciaga’s knowledge of the campaign featuring children with the plush bear bags.

In a since-deleted Instagram post, the Italian photographer said in a caption under a photo: “This is Juno, 3 years old. Another of the little girls I photographed for @balenciaga as part of my Toy Stories project.”

The caption for the image is still cached in Google’s search results.

NTD Photo
Google search results for the Balenciaga Objects, which displays an image caption from a since-deleted Instagram post by Italian campaign photographer Gianluca Galimberti. (Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

A version of the plush bear bag first appeared on Balenciaga’s SS23 catwalk show carried by model Bella Hadid.

The Epoch Times contacted the Kering group, which manages several fashion houses, including Balenciaga, for comment.

‘We Strongly Condemn Abuse of Children’

Hours after issuing its apology over the plush bear bags, Balenciaga apologized for its Spring 23 campaign photoshoot, which included a U.S. Supreme Court case document about child pornography in the set design.

The ad campaign for the company’s Spring 23 campaign, shot by photojournalist Joshua Bright, features images of a desk covered in files and papers. A photo of the company’s handbag, a collaboration with Adidas, included the court file that was mostly covered by the bag.

“We apologize for displaying for unsettling documents in our campaign,” Balenciaga said in a statement on Instagram stories, which automatically expires after 24 hours.

“We take this matter very seriously and are taking legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set and including unapproved items for our Spring 23 campaign photoshoot. We strongly condemn abuse of children in any form. We stand for children safety and well-being.”

The Epoch Times contacted Bright for comment, including whether he had knowledge of the document being included in the set design.

The duel ad campaigns caused controversy after a Twitter account on Monday drew attention to both campaigns at the same time.

The juxtaposition of the campaigns evoked themes of child abuse, leading conservative activists to decry the ads and Balenciaga and, at the same time, some to dismiss the concerns as so-called conspiracy theories.

The SCOTUS case in question, United States v. Williams, found that prosecuting individuals pandering the sale of so-called “child pornography” who didn’t possess such material wasn’t a violation of the First Amendment.

The images featuring child models appear to be wiped from the brand’s online sites and platforms.

From The Epoch Times

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