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Balenciaga apologizes for ads featuring children holding bondage bears

Written by Lianne Kolirin, CNN

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

Shot by photographer Gabriele Galimberti, the images for 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 includes “dozens of new products ranging from homewares, pet apparel and fragrances, everyday items to limited-edition collectibles and to bespoke furniture.

But there was an angry reaction on social media to the snaps which featured young children with plush stuffed bags dressed in what looked like BDSM-inspired outfits. A child is photographed with an assortment of empty wine glasses.

One Twitter user wrote, “Balenciaga may have ‘apologized’ but everyone knows this campaign has outdone people at the highest level. It’s an advertising ploy, trying to get attention with controversial content. I do not accept their excuses and 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 read.

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

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

“I am not in a position to comment [on] Balenciaga’s choices, but I must stress that I had no right to choose (sic) neither the products, nor the models, nor the combination thereof.

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

“As usual, the direction of the campaign and the shoot 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 that are completely different from mine, absolutely explicit in their awful content. Lynchings like these are directed against wrong targets and divert attention from the real problem, and from the criminals.”

“We defend the safety of children”

Hours after apologizing, Balenciaga posted another statement on Instagram apologizing for posting “troubling documents” in a separate campaign, referencing documents from a Supreme Court case relating to child pornography.

“We apologize for posting disturbing materials 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 material for our Spring 23 campaign photoshoot,” the company said.

“We strongly condemn child abuse in all its forms. We stand up for the safety and well-being of children.”

Galimberti said he had “no connection with the photo where a Supreme Court document appears.”

Last month, Balenciaga severed 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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