Balenciaga Apologizes for Controversial Bondage Teddy Bear Ad

The luxury fashion house Balenciaga has issued an apology for its recent advertising campaign that featured children holding teddy bears dressed in bondage gear. Photographer Gabriele Galimberti captured the images featuring children dressed in the Balenciaga Kids line linked to the Balenciaga Gift Shop campaign. In last week's original press release, the campaign describes the artist's series Toy Stories as a "campaign iterates on the artist's series Toy Stories, an exploration of what people collect and receive as gifts." According to the company's announcement, the line offers "dozens of new products ranging from homeware, petwear and scent, from everyday items to limited-edition collectibles and bespoke furniture." 

On social media, however, the photos of children carrying plush teddy bears in outfits that appeared to be BDSM-inspired were met with angry comments. One picture shows a child with a selection of empty wine glasses. In a Nov. 22 Instagram Stories post, the company apologized for running the campaign. "We sincerely apologize for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused," the statement said. "Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign. We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms."

Galimberti told CNN in a Nov. 23 statement that the direction and shooting of the campaign were outside of his control. "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. As a photographer, I was only and solely requested to lit (sic) the given scene and take the shots according to my signature style. As usual, the direction of the campaign and of the shooting are not on the hands of the photographer." He added: "I suspect that any person prone to pedophilia searches on the web and has unfortunately a too easy access to images completely different than mine, absolutely explicit in their awful content. Lynching like these are addressed against wrong targets, and distract from the real problem, and criminals."

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Hours after issuing the apology, Balenciaga posted a further statement on Instagram apologizing for displaying "unsettling documents" in a separate campaign, referring to documents from a case relating to child pornography laws. Within hours of releasing its apology, Balenciaga issued another statement on Instagram apologizing for showing "unsettling documents" in a separate campaign, referencing documents from a Supreme Court case involving child pornography. "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. "We strongly condemn abuse of children in any form. We stand for children safety and well-being." Galimberti claims he had "no connection with the photo where a Supreme Court document appears." The fashion house cut ties with Kanye West last month following the rapper's antisemitic posts and comments.