Balenciaga says sorry for 'creepy' ad, photographer breaks silence: 5 fast facts – Exchange4Media

The luxury clothing brand has pulled down the controversial advertisement featuring kids but has dubiously blamed 'parties' for using 'unapproved items' for the shoot

One of the top streetwear brands Balenciaga found itself in a soup when it received backlash against its recent ad campaign. The photoshoot for the campaign featured toddlers holding teddy bears dressed in risque bondage-style clothing. With the backlash not seeing any signs of abating, Balenciaga issued an apology and immediately pulled down the campaign from all the platforms. 

Here are fast facts about the campaign that you need to know.

1. The ad was a part of Balenciaga’s ‘Toy Stories’
The ad was part of Balenciaga’s holiday campaign ‘Toy Stories’ for its signature teddy bear bags, which are a part of its spring-summer 2023 collection. The photoshoot was done by National Geographic photographer Gabriele Galimberti. Two toddlers have been featured in the ad dressed in Balenciaga gear holding the teddy bags.

2. Outrage over bondage-themed ad

The Toy Stories campaign was severely criticised on Twitter and netizens called out the brand for seemingly “sexualising” children. Critics argue that the usage of teddy bears and kids in the ad belies the perverted intent behind it.

I thought people were trolling, but nope. It’s real. Maybe this is why Balenciaga left Twitter. They don’t want to be held accountable. Yes, these are children holding teddy bears dressed in bondage outfits.

To lend some credence to the accusations, the teddy bears were dressed up in harnesses, fishnets and spiked leather collars that are associated with the bondage lifestyle.
An eagle-eyed netizen also pointed out that one of the teddies carried by the child model has a lock around its neck. In another one of Balenciaga’s ad, an adult model covertly holds a key in his hand.

3. The supreme court document(s)
To make matters worse, another one of Balenciaga’s ads also features a supreme court document pertaining to a 2008 child pornography case titled United States vs Williams.
Way more going on here

It deals with the ruling that criminalised child pornography, reaffirmed the constitutionality of PROTECT Act and raised penalties for sexual abuse and exploitation of children.
Others argued that the document is different but offered cold comfort to the brand. Some netizens pointed out that the document refers to the Ashcroft v Free Speech Coalition. In the 2002 case, the court took a portion of the 1996 Child Pornography Prevention Act, which deemed virtual child pornography as protected speech.
The jury is out on whether the random placement of such a document is deliberate or coincidental.

4. The photographer absolves himself from the mess

The Nat Geo photographer Gabriele Galimberti who was entrusted with the shoot insisted that he did not give creative direction to the campaign. Through an Instagram post, he categorically stated that he was requested to take pictures in his “signature style.”
Galimberti also added that the photographs with the supreme court documents were not a part of his shoot. “That one was taken in another set by other people and was falsely associated with my photos,” he wrote.

A post shared by Gabriele Galimberti (@gabrielegalimbertiphoto)
5. Balenciaga issues apology, removes campaign photos

After the tremendous backlash that followed, the fashion brand issued an apology and removed the campaign pictures from all the platforms.
Balenciaga is now apologizing for their child porn marketing campaign. The apology should not be accepted.
Through a social media post, Balenciaga also vowed to take legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set and including “unapproved” items for its spring-summer 2023 campaign. The said items could be the supreme court documents with the child abuse rulings since the other contentious objects used in the shoot are Balenciaga’s own products. 
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