Luxury fashion brand Balenciaga has been heavily criticized for an advertising campaign that featured young children with sexually-suggestive items. Critics have decried the campaign for its potential to normalize child pornography.
The campaign featured images of two female children holding teddy bear handbags that were accessorized with items linked to BDSM and sexual fetishes.
Balenciaga has since apologized and deleted most of its social media content.
Balenciaga is promoting sexualisation and abuse of Children by making kids hold BDSM Bondage teddy bears.
— Oli London (@OliLondonTV) November 23, 2022
On November 16th, Balenciaga began sharing images from its campaign on social media. The pictures were of children modeling the fashion brand’s new plush bear handbags. The campaign was meant to promote the fashion brand’s 2023 Spring/Summer collection for Paris Fashion Week.
However, the teddy bear bags were accessorized with fishnet clothing, leather harnesses, and metal collars. Social media users quickly began to angrily question why children were being involved in a campaign that featured items associated with BDSM-like sexual fetishes.
Another photoshoot also sparked controversy. A separate advertisement for a Balenciaga and Adidas collaboration featured a handbag on top of a desk full of documents.
Social media users zoomed in on the papers in the image to reveal that one of them was a US Supreme Court document on child pornography laws.
The document in question concerned the controversial 2008 case titled United States vs. Williams. The case ruled that the “pandering” of child pornography was not a violation of the First Amendment. This was the case even if the individual charged with such an offense already possessed said pornography to trade.
We know #Balenciaga is in hot water now, but let's not forget that the bag lying on a document regarding child pornography law is from a collab with @adidas. They should also be held accountable for the pedophilic fantasy exhibition. #BalenciagaAdidas #Groomers pic.twitter.com/1FpVRctYfL
— Judgy Emoji (@JudgyEmoji) November 22, 2022
Balenciaga has now found itself in hot water for the content of its advertisement campaigns.
Balenciaga has apologized for the images in its campaign. “We sincerely apologize for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused,” said the fashion brand on Instagram. “Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign. We have…removed the campaign from all platforms.”
The fashion company has said that the ad campaigns resulted from “grievous errors” and has insisted that they “stand for children safety and well-being” and that Balenciaga “strongly [condemns] abuse of children in any form.”
Balenciaga has since deleted all content on its Instagram account except for the apology post. Its Instagram account is followed by over fourteen million people.
The company also announced that it would be pursuing legal action against the set designers who organized the shoot. Many social media commentators felt that the brand was merely trying to deflect the blame, however.
“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,” read the statement by Balenciaga.
Brand ambassadors associated with Balenciaga have also been criticized. Kim Kardashian, arguably the brand’s most well-known ambassador, released a statement saying that she was “shaken by the disturbing images” and that “any attempts to normalize child abuse of any kind should have no place in our society—period.”