Balenciaga on Tuesday apologised for its controversial ad campaign that features children cuddling teddy bears dressed in bondage gear. The images were released last week as part of the Balenciaga Gift Shop campaign and invited swift, brutal backlash.
Shot by photographer Gabriele Galimberti, the pictures feature children with teddy bears that appear to be dressed in BDSM-inspired costumes. One photograph shows a young girl with several wine glasses. The campaign was removed after receiving an angry response on social media.
On Tuesday, Balenciaga posted an apology on Instagram Stories. "We sincerely apologize for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused," the luxury fashion house said, according to CNN.
"Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign. We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms."
The apology did little to pacify a large section of the internet that criticised Balenciaga for the “shameful” and “dangerous” ad campaign.“Balenciaga apology is simply not enough. They actively tried to push child exploitation, child abuse and sexualisation and try and ‘normalise it’ and make it trendy,” wrote British social media star Oli London alongside a photo that shows him burning his Balenciaga T-shirts.
Balenciaga apology is simply not enough. They actively tried to push child exploitation, child abuse and sexualisation and try and ‘normalise it’ and make it trendy. Doing this to kids is unforgivable! This is why I just burned all my Balenciaga T-shirts #balenciaga pic.twitter.com/h2urzAIFGp
— Oli London (@OliLondonTV) November 23, 2022
“Balenciaga is very much cancelled in my eyes, I don’t care what explanation they come up with. don’t mess with children,” another person tweeted.
US Congresswoman Mayra Flores tweeted that Balenciaga only apologised because it got caught.
Balenciaga only apologized and deleted their content because they got caught.
The grooming and indoctrination of children is truly evil.— Mayra Flores (@MayraFlores2022) November 23, 2022
Photographer Gabriele Galimberti told CNN on Wednesday that the styling and set design was not in his hands. “I am not in a position to comment [on] Balenciaga's choices, but I must stress that I was not entitled in whatsoever manner to neither chose (sic) the products, nor the models, nor the combination of the same,” he said.
“As a photographer, I was only and solely requested to lit (sic) the given scene, and take the shots according to my signature style.”
It was again an explanation that many did not buy. “Hey Photographers: When Balenciaga hires you to shoot their new lookbook & you show up to find a toddler laid across a sofa with wine glasses & bondage gear arranged around them, you walk away. Period,” one Twitter user remarked.
Meanwhile, another photoshoot came back to haunt Balenciaga as backlash against this one grew. Internet sleuths dug up a picture from another ad campaign that shows a poorly hidden court document about child pornography laws.
Balenciaga said it was taking action against the parties responsible for creating the set in the Spring 23 campaign shoot.
“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,” the company said in a separate statement posted shortly after its apology for the Gift Shop campaign. “We strongly condemn abuse of children in any form. We stand for children safety and well-being.”As of Thursday, Balenciaga’s Instagram account has been emptied of all posts.