Balenciaga Condemns Teddy Bear Ad, Announces Plans to Better Protect Children: ‘Wrong Choice’
Balenciaga is taking responsibility for a "series of grievous errors" after unveiling a campaign that featured children posing with stuffed animals dressed in BDSM-like attire. The fashion house issued a statement via social media on Monday, November 28, calling the ad "wrong."
"We would like to address the controversies surrounding our recent ad campaigns," the fashion house began in the Instagram memo. "We strongly condemn child abuse; It was never our intent to include it in our narrative. The two separate ad campaigns in question reflect a series of grievous errors for which Balenciaga takes responsibility."
Earlier this month, the luxury label released a "Toy Stories" campaign on its website, which showed young children from different backgrounds photographed with Balenciaga's plush bear bags. The accessories were seen strapped in harnesses and other inappropriate items, causing immediate backlash online.
Balenciaga explained in its Monday statement that children "should not have been featured" with the pieces.
"This was a wrong choice by Balenciaga, combined with our failure in assessing and validating images. The responsibility for this lies with Balenciaga alone," the statement continued.
The company also addressed a campaign image that included Supreme Court documents from the 2008 United States vs. William case, which criminalized child pornography.
"The second, separate campaign for spring 2023, which was meant to replicate a business office environment, included a photo with a page in the background from a Supreme Court Ruling 'United States V. Williams' 2008, which confirms as illegal and not protected by freedom of speech the promotion of child pornography," Balenciaga wrote in the statement. "All the items included in this shooting were provided by third parties that confirmed in writing that these papers were fake office documents. They turned out to be real legal papers most likely coming from the filming of a television drama."
Balenciaga asserted, however, that the inclusion of the legal papers was "unapproved" and "the result of reckless negligence." The brand has since taken legal action and "filed a complaint."
The post continued: "We take full accountability for our lack of oversight and control of the documents in the background, and we could have done things differently."
Additionally, Balenciaga announced internal and external investigations as well as plans to further protect children.
"We are closely revising our organization and collective ways of working," Balenciaga explained. "We are reinforcing the structures around our creative processes and validation steps. We want to ensure that new controls mark a pivot and will prevent this from happening again. We are laying the groundwork with organizations who specialize in child protection and aim at ending child abuse and exploitation."
The brand added: "We want to learn from our mistakes and identify ways we can contribute. Balenciaga reiterates its sincere apologies for the offense we have caused and extends its apologies to talents and partners."
Balenciaga's latest statement comes after the label removed the campaigns on Tuesday, November 22. The fashion house also wiped its social media accounts clean.
“We sincerely apologize for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused,” read an initial statement from Balenciaga, per CNN. “Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign. We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms.”
Kim Kardashian, who has a long-standing relationship with Balenciaga, was among the many to condemn the company's actions.
“I have been quiet for the past few days, not because I haven’t been shocked and outraged by the recent Balenciaga campaigns,” the Skims founder, 42, wrote via Twitter on Sunday, November 27. “But because I wanted an opportunity to speak to their team to understand for myself how this could have happened.”
She continued: “As a mother of four, I have been shaken by the disturbing images. The safety of children must be held with the highest regard and any attempts to normalize child abuse of any kind should have no place in our society — period. I appreciate Balenciaga’s removal of the campaigns and apology. In speaking with them, I believe they understand the seriousness of the issue and will take the necessary measures for this to never happen again.”
The TV personality added that she is "currently re-evaluating" her "relationship" with Balenciaga "basing it off their willingness to accept accountability for something that should have never happened to begin with — and the actions I am expecting to see them take to protect children.”
Kardashian, daughters North, 9, Chicago, 4, and sons Saint, 6, and Psalm, 3, with ex Kanye West, became the face of the brand in February and walked in Balenciaga's Haute Couture show during Paris Fashion Week in July.