Amid backlash over ‘child sexualisation’, Balenciaga apologizes and files $25M lawsuit: What’s the dispute

French high fashion label Balenciaga recently issued an apology for two of its ad campaigns and sued the makers of one of them. Amid the backlash, reality TV star Kim Kardashian, known to be a Balenciaga fan, said she was “re-evaluating” her relationship with the brand after being left “shaken by the disturbing images”.

What are these ad campaigns and what is all the controversy about? We explain.

The campaigns

One of the ads showed children posing with teddy bear bags. The problem was that the bears were wearing slave clothing. One of the teddy bears had pins on it, while the other in fishnets and leather straps had “bruised” eyes, with a chain stuck around its neck. This was posted on the brand’s Instagram account, which currently has 14 million followers.

In the other case, a US court ruling on child pornography was among the papers used as props on a desk in an ad for a $3,000 purse.

After the outrage over the teddy bears, netizens looked at other Balenciaga ads and focused on the court ruling in the image shot in July.

Public response

Even though Balenciaga took down the images, several people took screenshots and re-uploaded them on Twitter and Instagram.

From referring to the photos as a “pedophile agenda” and “child abuse” to calling for the trademark to be revoked, social media was outraged.

How the industry responded

After days of silence, Kardashian, who previously worked as an ambassador for Balenciaga, released a statement on Monday, saying: “As a mother of four, I was shaken by the disturbing images.”

She said that the safety of children must be given the utmost attention and that attempts to normalize any kind of child abuse should not take place in society.

Kardashian’s ex-husband and ex-Balenciaga partner Kanye West has also been criticized for the industry’s silence on the controversy. “It shows that all celebrities are controlled. You don’t see any celebrities talking about the Balenciaga situation.”

Despite the outrage, many in the fashion industry have remained silent on the matter for now.

What was Balenciaga’s response?

For the bag ad featuring the child pornography ruling, which was part of its spring 2023 campaign, Balenciaga sued production company North Six and set designer Nicholas Des Jardins, seeking $25 million in damages.

The Washington Post subpoenaed court documents filed Friday in New York State Supreme Court for New York County to report that the fashion house alleged that “inexplicable acts and omissions,” done without Balenciaga’s knowledge, were “heinous or, at the very least, extraordinary reckless”. “.

What about the plush ad?

Balenciaga posted an apology on Instagram and said its bear bags “should not have been shown with children”. He said he was no longer selling the items and had removed the images from all web platforms.

The photographer of the filming, Gabriele Galimberti, allegedly received e-mails and hate messages.

National Geographic’s Galimberti, known for his Toy Stories project, which shows children photographed with their “favorite” toys, said: “I am not in a position to comment on Balenciaga’s choices, but I must point out that I had no right whatsoever to one. chose the products, not the models, nor the combination of them.”

“As a photographer, I was only and exclusively asked to light the given scene and take the photos according to my style. As usual for a commercial shoot, the direction of the campaign and the choice of objects shown are not in the hands of the photographer,” he said in a statement.

The parents of the children involved in the campaign have not made any statement so far.

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