Luxury fashion house Balenciaga deleted all of its social media accounts and issued an apology hours after public outrage ensued over its use of sexually charged images of children in its holiday marketing campaign.
Photos in the ads featured a young girl holding stuffed teddy bears wearing sexual bondage outfits. In one image, a girl is lying on a couch in front of a coffee table with alcoholic beverage glasses and a whiskey flask. In another image, a girl holds a BDSM teddy bear with two black eyes, suggesting it was subjected to violence.
Guys, zoom in. It’s not just fetish gear, the teddy bear has two black eyes.
Cancel this brand for life.
— Nicole Arbour (@NicoleArbour) November 23, 2022
Social media users quickly noticed Balenciaga’s ad campaign featured their products adorning a table that had court documents about child pornography.
In a statement posted to Balenciaga’s Instagram page — which has since been deleted and now shows no posts — the company said:
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.
We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms.
Balenciaga also said the company will pursue legal action against “the parties responsible for creating the set and including unapproved items for our Spring 23 campaign photoshoot. We strongly condemn abuse of children in any form. We stand for children safety and well-being.”
The apology immediately drew criticism, as people noted that ad campaigns from major brands are subject to an approval process requiring multiple departments (marketing, C-Suite, legal, etc.) to authorize all photographs, images, and content prior to launch.
“Wow. Trying to blame the people who ‘created the set?’ This is exactly what I do for a living, I’m a product photo stylist for ad campaigns,” a Twitter user with the name Sara Radovanovitch wrote. “Not a single photo makes it’s way to the public without passing through multiple departments for scrutiny and approval. They’re 100% lying.”
Wow. Trying to blame the people who “created the set?” This is exactly what I do for a living, I’m a product photo stylist for ad campaigns. Not a single photo makes it’s way to the public without passing through multiple departments for scrutiny and approval. They’re 100% lying.
— Sara Radovanovitch (@the_cats_meowww) November 22, 2022
According to Birdwatch, a Twitter process that allows users to crowd-source fact-checking, the document on child pornography featured in the ad campaign was from United States v. Williams, a court case that was appealed up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
the brand "Balenciaga" just did a uh….. interesting… photoshoot for their new products recently which included a very purposely poorly hidden court document about 'virtual child porn'
normal stuff pic.twitter.com/zjMN5WhZ0s
— shoe (@shoe0nhead) November 21, 2022
The Court found that a federal statute prohibiting the proliferation of child pornography did not violate the First Amendment.
Balenciaga had recently announced it was leaving Twitter after the social media giant was purchased by billionaire Elon Musk.
The fashion company had also recently severed tied with music legend Kanye West following controversial public statements West made.