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Balenciaga condemns child abuse in new apology over ad scandal

by Leila Salaverria

LUXURY fashion house Balenciaga issued a second, lengthier apology amid continued backlash over its ad campaigns criticized for sexualizing children, and took responsibility for its “series of grievous errors.”

Balenciaga said it is strongly against child abuse, and listed the steps it has taken to address the matter and correct its actions.   

“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,” it said in a statement on Instagram.

The first controversial ad featured shots of children in Balenciaga clothing holding teddy bears dressed in bondage gear.

They criticized the brand for juxtaposing photos of children with sexual imagery, and said this could only have been a deliberate decision.

Another Balenciaga ad did not escape eagle-eyed netizens who pointed out that the background in the shot of a handbag featured a printout of a 2008 Supreme Court decision on the US’ pornography laws.

The United States v. Williams decision upheld the constitutionality of a law that said the promotion of child pornography is not protected by free speech.

Netizens also criticized another photo that included a book on Belgian artist Michael Borremans, who had produced works depicting toddlers covered in blood playing in fire. 

Some Twitter users likewise questioned the inclusion in a photo of a certificate bearing the name “John Philip Fisher,” as they noted that a man of the same name was convicted of molesting his own granddaughter.

In its second apology, Balenciaga addressed concerns over the photos of the children and said its “plush bear bags and the gift collection should not have been featured with children.” 

“This was a wrong choice by Balenciaga, combined with our failure in assessing and validating images. The responsibility for this lies with Balenciaga alone,” it said. 

Office props 

As for the photo that included the Supreme Court ruling, the luxury fashion house said the items included in the shoot came from third parties that “confirmed in writing that these props were fake office documents.”

“They turned out to be real legal papers most likely coming from the filming of a television drama. The inclusion of these unapproved documents was the result of reckless negligence for which Balenciaga has filed a complaint,” it said.

But it also said it was taking full accountability for its lack of oversight and control of the documents in the background, and acknowledged that it could have done things differently. 

Corrective actions

Balenciaga also said “internal and external investigations are ongoing.” But in the meantime, it said it has taken steps to address the controversy.

It said it is now “laying the groundwork” with organizations dealing with child protection and aiming to end child abuse and exploitation. 

It is also revising the way the organization works and is “reinforcing our creative process and validation steps,” it said.

“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,” it said.

The second apology came several days after its initial statement on the issue, where it apologized “for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused” and for “displaying unsettling documents” in its campaign. 

It said it had removed the campaign from all its platforms and was taking legal action against the parties responsible for the set and for “including unapproved” items in the photoshoot. 

“We strongly condemn abuse of children in any form. We stand for children safety and well-being,” it said in its first statement.

This had failed dampen criticism of Balenciaga and calls escalated asking celebrities to speak up about the brand’s action. 



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