Fashion brand Balenciaga has apologized for a deeply disturbing photo shoot which featured traumatized looking children holding teddy bears dressed in bondage gear and a prop relating to a child porn Supreme Court case.
Critics slammed the designer label after photos were released showing young girls holding plush bear bags adorned with BDSM gear. But perhaps even more insidious was the placement of a prop showing court documents concerning Ashcroft v Free Speech Coalition, a 2002 Supreme Court case.
The case struck down a portion of the Child Pornography Prevention Act (CPPA) of 1996, ruling that “virtual” child pornography must be considered protected speech.
In an Instagram post, Balenciaga wrote, “We sincerely apologise 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.”
“We apologise for displaying unsettling documents in our campaign,” the company stated. “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.”
The company also claimed ignorance when it came to the Supreme Court case prop, adding that it would be pursuing legal charges against those responsible for featuring it.
Fact checkers and mainstream media came to the defense of the luxury brand, claiming the scandal is nothing but an “absurd conspiracy theory.”
But if that was the case, why would Balenciaga apologize and delete their social media accounts?
Image is everything for luxury fashion brands. Ad campaigns are major events involving months of work for thousands of people and millions and millions of dollars in budgets. Are we really supposed to believe Balenciaga didn’t know what they were putting out into the world?
“Frightening how many adults must have been involved in this,” one Twitter user remarked. “Parents, photographers, creative directors, copywriters, design agency staff, producers, managers, advertisers… and not one of them thought, ‘hang on a minute?’”