The high fashion house Balenciaga has formally apologized for its Christmas advertising campaign featuring young kids holding teddy bears dressed in bondage harnesses.
“We would like to address the controversies surrounding our recent ad campaigns,” Balenciaga wrote in a statement on Instagram released Monday. “We strongly condemn child abuse; it was never our intent to include it in our narrative,” adding the “ad campaigns in question reflect a series of grievous errors for which Balenciaga takes responsibility.”
The brand faced near-instant pushback when photos surfaced of advertisements showing young child models clutching plush bears wearing leather straps and harnesses associated with the bondage, disciple, dominance, and submission (BDSM) fetish.
Adding insult to injury, another inexplicable graphic Balenciaga planned to release in a separate campaign for the Spring of 2023 featured a background photo of the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Williams. The landmark case maintained that promoting child pornography was not protected under the First Amendment. The fashion house insists that the set design company hired for the shoot was supposed to provide generic office props but instead brought in props previously used in a legal drama, unbeknownst to Balenciaga employees.
The photographer, Gabriele Galimberti, whose work has been heavily featured in National Geographic, beat Balenciaga to the punch last week releasing a personal statement on the controversy.
“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. As a photographer, I was only and solely requested to lit the given scene, and take the shots according to my signature style,” Galimberti wrote on Instagram.
According to the BBC, the photo shoot was supposed to mimic Galimberti’s earlier PG-friendly “Toy Stories” series.
One of the company’s most visible brand ambassadors, Kim Kardashian, released a series of tweets Sunday night responding to the controversy.
“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.
Kardashian further stipulated that her relationship with the fashion house would be contingent on “their willingness to accept accountability for something that should have never happened to begin with,” Kardashian wrote in close.
The fashion house has reportedly filed a $25 million lawsuit against the production company North Six, Inc. and the shoot’s set designer for the inclusion of Supreme Court legal documents in the photographs.