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Social media has been abuzz over the latest controversy to strike the fashion world, but if you haven't been following along, you may be out of the loop on the latest happenings—let's start from the beginning.
Last week, Balenciaga released ads for their holiday campaign promoting their "gift collection," featuring a series of photos that mirror the typical work of photographer Gabriele Galimberti, best known for his images of children displaying their toys.
However, this series for the brand featured child models holding teddy bears wearing BDSM-inspired outfits, which immediately raised eyebrows. Other objects seen in the photographs are empty glasses, duct tape, coasters, straps or studded leather necklaces.
Eagle-eyed Twitter users then proceeded to point out a small, but crucial detail from the spring campaign that added the final nail to the coffin.
In an image of a handbag atop a stack of papers, one of the documents seen is from the Supreme Court ruling United States v. Williams, which deemed the promotion of child pornography illegal and not protected under freedom of speech.
Upon discovering these two instances that were linked to child abuse, millions across the web were struck with confusion and anger, wondering why the brand would do this and who was responsible.
Faced with the backlash, Balenciaga deleted all their social media posts, and instead published a single statement to their Instagram account.
"We strongly condemn child abuse; it was never our intent to include it in our narrative," the statement reads. "The two separate ad campaigns in question reflect a series of grievous errors for which Balenciaga takes responsibility."
The shoot's photographer, Galimberti, also issued a statement, claiming he only lit the shots and took the pictures, but was in no way involved with selecting items, posing or creative direction.
In an effort to address the situation, the company filed a $25 million lawsuit against production company North Six, Inc., and set designer Nicholas Des Jardins, per the New York Post.
However, many argue this move is an attempt to deflect blame, as the company would not have published an image without having more than one set of eyes on it.
"If Balenciaga were primarily interested in monetary compensation for the advertising disaster, it probably would have taken time to negotiate a quiet settlement. Instead, Balenciaga filed an immediate, media-worthy lawsuit in order to disavow the campaign in the strongest possible terms and offer the public a different pair of villains," Susan Scafidi of Fordham's Fashion Law Institute tells Diet Prada.
Several celebrities that are closely affiliated with the brand have come forward and spoken on the issue, most notably Kim Kardashian.
"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," she stated.
She added that she would also be "reevaluating my relationship with the brand."