Balenciaga apologizes for ads showing children with servitude bears

written by Lianne Kolrin, CNN

Luxury fashion house Balenciaga has apologized for featuring children hugging teddy bears dressed in bondage gear in its latest ad campaign.

Photographed by photographer Gabriele Galimberti, images linked to the Balenciaga Gift Shop campaign featured young children dressed in the Balenciaga Kids line.

According to the original press release issued last week, the “campaign iterates on the artist’s Toy Stories series, an exploration of what people collect and receive as gifts.”

In its original press release, the company said the line featured “dozens of new products ranging from home furnishings, pet apparel and fragrances, from everyday items to collections limited edition and bespoke furniture”.

But there was an angry response on social media to the photographs featuring small children with teddy bear bags dressed in what appeared to be BDSM-inspired outfits. A child is depicted with an assortment of empty wine glasses.

One Twitter user wrote: “Balenciaga may have ‘apologised’ but everyone knows this campaign outsmarted people at the highest level. This is an advertising ploy, trying to get attention with controversial content. I don’t agree his apologies and I never will. It is NEVER okay to sexualize children.”

The company posted an apology on its Instagram on Tuesday announcing that the campaign had been removed.

“We sincerely apologize for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused,” the statement said.

“Our teddy bear bags should not have appeared with children in this campaign. We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms.”

Photographer Galimberti told CNN in a statement Wednesday that the direction and shooting of the campaign was out of his hands.

“I am not in a position to comment [on] Balenciaga’s choices, but I must emphasize that I had no right in any way to choose (sic) the products, nor the models, nor the combination thereof.

“As a photographer, I was only asked to light (sic) the given scene and take the photographs in my signature style.

“As usual, the direction of the campaign and the shooting are not in the hands of the photographer”.

He added: “I suspect that anyone prone to pedophilia searches the web and unfortunately has too easy access to images completely different from mine, absolutely explicit in their horrific content. Lynchings like these are aimed at the wrong targets and they distract from the real problem and criminals.”

“We defend the safety of children”

Hours after issuing the apology, Balenciaga posted another statement on Instagram apologizing for showing “disturbing documents” in a separate campaign, referring to documents from a Supreme Court case related to child pornography laws.

“We apologize for showing disturbing documents in our campaign. We take this matter very seriously and are taking legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set and including unapproved items for the spring 23rd campaign photo shoot” , the company said.

“We strongly condemn child abuse in any form. We stand for the safety and well-being of children.”

Galimberti said he had “no relation to the photo in which a document from the Supreme Court appears.”

Last month, Balenciaga cut ties with the rapper formerly known as Kanye West after a series of anti-Semitic posts and controversial comments.

CNN has reached out to Kering, Balenciaga’s parent company, for comment.

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