Balenciaga Apologizes for Campaign Featuring Kids Holding Bondage-Clad Teddy Bears

Fashion luxury brand Balenciaga has broken their silence on its latest Holiday campaign ads that featured young children holding teddy bears dressed in bondage gear, issuing an apology days after the viral disturbing photos left the internet in rage.

The holiday campaign featured on Balenciaga website showed two young child models clutching the luxury brand’s new teddy bear bags that were first debuted at Balenciaga’s Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2023 runway collection. In one photo, a young ginger-haired child, wearing a Balenciaga T-shirt, standing on top of a blush pink bed while clutching on to a white teddy bag from its leather strap. The teddy was seen dressed in a mesh crop top with studded bracelets on both arms and padlocked chocker around its neck.

Screenshot via Balenciaga/Website

In the second campaing ad featured in Balenciaga’s gift shop section of its website showed a different child standing on a couch while holding a purple furry bear bag that was wearing a leather bondage S&M get-up along with what appears to look like a black lace thong. The same photo also featured another teddy bear in blue dressed in a more studded leather bands and is placed in the side table in the background.

via Balenciaga

While none of the teddy bear handbags featured in the campaign ads are currently available for purchase, the image was used to promote other items that were spread around the children being sold in the brand’s gift shop selection. The holiday gift selection includes dozens of unusual product including the likes of a stainless steel dog bowl ringed with spikes, candle holders shaped like beer cans, and champagne glasses bearing beer-like logo of “Balenciaga.”

Plush bear bag featured on Balenciaga RTW Spring-Summer 2023 runway show (via Balenciaga)

Added scrutiny to the fallout was a separate ad promoting Balenciaga’s collaboration with Adidas which featured a three stripes handbag atop a pile of documents. However, upon zooming in, one of the documents revealed to be a Supreme Court opinion of a 2008 child pornography case, United vs. Williams. The ruling upheld portions of the PROTECT Act, a federal child pornography law designed criminalized advertising, promoting, presenting, or distributing child pornography. In the 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that First Amendment protection did not extend to offers to engage or in illegal transactions of child sexual abuse materials.

Screenshot via Balenciaga/Website

The “pedophilic-like” images quickly left the internet spiraling into a frenzy outrage, forcing Balenciaga to scrubbed its entire Instagram account clean along with removing all traces of the controversial shocking images from their website. Both photos of the young children holding the bondage-clad bears were replaced by a different photo from the campaign. The new photos features a different young children is posing in front of the different kinds of Balenciaga products sold in the gift shop selection, but is not holding the teddy bear bags in bondage gear. However, the bondage-styled bear is still featured in the picture and placed in the left side of the room.

The luxury fashion house led by creative director Demna Gvasalia issued an apology on its Instagram story regarding the campaign ads, noting they have “immediately” removed the “offense” images and suggested they are planning to take legal action against “the parties responsible.”

“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,” Balenciaga said in a statement shared on its Instagram story Tuesday. “We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms.”

Screenshot via Balenciaga/Instagram

Two hours later, the luxury fashion house shared a follow-up statement addressing the campaign ad that featured “unsettling documents” of the scattering Supreme Court ruling under the Balenciaga handbag. Balenciaga claimed that they are “taking the matter very seriously” and are “taking legal action against photographer Gabriele Galimberti and others responsible for creating the set, including unapproved items” for their Spring 2023 campaign.

“We apologize for displaying unsettling 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 our Spring 23 campaign photoshoot,” Balenciaga stated.

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

Screenshot via Balenciaga/Instagram

The high-end brand, known for its outrageous eccentric take on fashion has some of the biggest name celebrities as its ambassador, including Kim Kardashian, actress Nicole Kidman and supermodels Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber. However, many of these noted celebrities — who are known to quickly express their opinions about socio-political issues on their social media pages have been largely silent regarding the Balenciaga incident despite fans outrage.

Following Balenciaga apology, Bella erased her latest Balenciaga ad campaign from her Instagram, but continues to remain silent on the matter. Kim K has also stayed mum despite fans outrage in lack of response.

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