This past Tuesday, Balenciaga, a titan of French fashion, officially apologized in the face of the extreme criticism and backlash which it was issued due to a recently released series of advertisements that highlighted young kids carrying teddy bear purses decked out in bondage gear.
The massive brand, which has large celebrity sponsors such as Kim Kardashian, posted pictures all over its website this week as part of what it is calling its “Toy Stories” campaign. The pictures spotlighted children models posing with the new teddy bear purses from the brand, with the bears themselves decked out in full BDSM gear from its Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2023 collection.
“We sincerely apologize for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused,” explained the company in a post to its Instagram story. “Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign. We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms.”
The fashion industry titan first showed off the new line of purses this past October at the runway show hosted in Paris, where large numbers of models walked the catwalk sporting bruised faces and bloody noses carrying the teddy bears.
The social media mob sparked into outrage this past Monday morning due to the most recent advertisement from the brand, which put the plush toys decked out in BDSM gear, including sheer fishnet tops, collars with locks, and studded leather harnesses, as reported by The Independent.
As the founder of the non-profit group Freedom Forever — which is known to advocate for the protection of children from exploitation, abuse, and trafficking — Landon Starbuck labeled the entire campaign as “absolutely demonic.”
“Balenciaga is fetishizing children by having them model with sexual BDSM paraphernalia,” stated Starbuck via social media. “They’re participating in a bigger campaign making it fashionable to destroy the innocence of children.”
This is absolutely demonic. Balenciaga is fetishizing children by having them model with sexual bdsm paraphernalia. They’re participating in a bigger campaign, making it fashionable to destroy the innocence of children. pic.twitter.com/CAXMQTMpri
— Landon Starbuck (@LandonStarbuck) November 21, 2022
As explained by The Independent, one of the pictures shows a series of documents from a 2008 Supreme Court opinion, United States vs. Williams — which is a statute blocking the “pandering” of child pornography, which ended up reaffirming the PROTECT Act, a federal law that maximized the penalties for all sexual exploitation and forms of abuse against children.
However, a few on social media thought the documents to be from the 2002 Supreme Court case Ashcroft vs. Free Speech Coalition, where the justices overturned a sections of the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 which allowed virtual child pornography to be marked as protected speech.
The fashion brand went on to apologize for even more for the inclusion of the court documents in the campaign.
“We apologize for displaying unsettling documents in our campaign,” stated the company. “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.”
“We strongly condemn the abuse of children in any form,” they concluded. “We stand for children safety and well-being.”