balenciaga kid with teddy bear advertisement

Balenciaga Child with Bondage Teddy Bear Ad Campaign

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Overview

Balenciaga Child with Bondage Teddy Bear Ad Campaign refers to a series of controversial advertisements run by the luxury fashion brand Balenciaga featuring photographs of children standing on a bed holding a teddy bear wearing what looks like a bondage outfit, surrounded by fashion accessories, meant to advertise their Objects line. The photographs, taken by Gabriele Galimberti, inspired backlash online in November 2022 as some believed Balenciaga was trying to normalize child abuse. An earlier photoshoot for a Balenciaga x Adidas collab that included a court document relating to a child porn case (United States v. Williams) on the table as set dressing also came under similar criticism, many believing it to be from the same shoot. Balenciaga removed the photographs and apologized for the campaigns that month, inspiring further backlash, including claims that they were only apologizing because they got caught. Celebrities who have worked with the company, including Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, also responded to the campaign. Later that month, Balenciaga announced they would be suing production company North Six for $25 million for the Balenciaga x Adidas shoot, but would not seek legal action regarding the teddy bear shoot specifically.

Background

In mid-November 2022, luxury fashion brand Balenciaga posted a series of photos to their website and Instagram page to advertise their Objects line, a line of fashion accessories including things like drinking glasses, a dog bowl, a flask and other accessories. The photoshoot features several photos of young girls standing on a bed holding a teddy bear that's wearing what many have assumed to be a bondage outfit. In front of the bed is a table with the accessories from the Objects line (shown below). There are also photos that show close-ups of various objects, though the photos are no longer available on the website or its social media.


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On November 19th, 2022, many Twitter users started calling out Balenciaga for the ad campaign. On that day, Twitter[1] user @DatCatDer posted the photos, writing, "Balenciaga using photos of little girls playing with teddy bears dressed in bondage gear on their website. Lovely," garnering over 4,200 likes in three days. On November 20th, Twitter[2] user @StormEllimac made a post pointing out a court document placed under the handbag in one photo, garnering over 2,500 likes in two days.

The photo does not feature the child directly and is from another photo shoot for the Balenciaga x Adidas product line, specifically the Hourglass Handbag.[19] The court document purportedly relates to the case United States v. Williams, a case revolved around the criminalization of advertising, promoting and distributing child pornography.[3] That same day, November 20th, Twitter[4] user @shoe0nhead reposted the photos, garnering over 57,000 likes and 13,000 retweets in two days (shown below, left, court document close-up, right).


shoe @shoeOnhead the brand "Balenciaga" just did a uh..... interesting... photoshoot for their new products recently which included a very purposely poorly hidden court document about 'virtual child p---' normal stuff AGA BAY ENCIAS CIAGA We use cookies and similar technologies to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist our marketing efforts. By continuing to 10:26 PM - Nov 20, 2022. Twitter Web App p GIFT SHOP DISCOVER Spe the oral ve of prod sala wy Mindeg a reasonable viewer to seed in that conduct on visual depiction of d p---------- or sex between This change eliminates any ors might be covered by the term amount of protected

Developments / Reactions

Sometime around November 19th, 2022, the photoshoot was then removed from Balenciaga's website and Instagram page following the backlash on social media (though Balenciaga notably deletes and replaces posts before advertising a new line of products).[8] As of November 22nd, the brand has made no official statement on the photos.

Libs of TikTok Reaction

On November 20th, 2022, the Twitter[10] account @LibsOfTikTok quote-retweeted shoe0nhead's tweet, writing, "Balenciaga is dressing teddy bears up in bondage gear for kids to hold while displaying documents about child porn," garnering over 12,000 likes and 3,700 retweets in two days (shown below).


Libs of TikTok Libs of TikTok @libsoftiktok Balenciaga is dressing teddy bears up in bondage gear for kids to hold while displaying documents about child p--- shoe @shoeOnhead. Nov 20 the brand "Balenciaga" just did a uh..... interesting... photoshoot for their new products recently which included a very purposely poorly hidden court document about 'virtual child p---' normal stuff Show this thread AGA BAY ANCIAGA ENCIAG We use cookies and similar technologies to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist our marketing efforts. By continuing to 10:50 PM - Nov 20, 2022. Twitter for iPhone GIFT SHOP DISCOVER www a wedd the stud ... p might by the of ped willy Mandags TAGA

Tucker Carlson Reaction

As backlash over the photos increased, media outlets including the New York Post[5] and Fox News[6] picked up the story. On November 21st, 2022, Twitter[7] user @ColumbiaBugle shared a clip of Tucker Carlson discussing the ad on Fox News, garnering over 554,000 views and 16,000 likes in a day (shown below). In the clip, Carlson said they reached out to Balenciaga about it but the company did not respond to requests for comment.


High Snobriety Article

Some people online shared a conspiracy theory that Balenciaga was teasing its involvement in a child sex ring due to the placement of the court document and several pieces of imagery used in the photoshoot, such as a white rabbit toy, also hypothesizing that this was an attempt to normalize the sexualization of children.

On November 22nd, 2022, High Snobriety[8] then published an article taking a deeper look into the conspiracy. In the article, the writer suggests the photo of the purse on the document is from another photoshoot for their Adidas collaboration, writing, "A bizarre choice in set dressing? Absolutely. Definitive proof that, as Lapine suggests, Balenciaga is hinting at something unlawful? Hardly."

The article also mentions a later tweet[9] by @shoe0nhead suggesting Balenciaga deleted all its Instagram posts due to the backlash. In reality, Balenciaga always deletes all its posts before it advertises a new line of products, replacing them with photos from the new drop.

Balenciaga's Apology

On November 22nd, 2022, Balenciaga posted an apology for the photoshoot to their Instagram story (shown below, left and right).[11] In the response, the company claims that they are "taking legal action" against the people responsible for the shoot and that they "strongly condemn abuse of children in any form." The apology was criticized by many online, with some hypothesizing that they were only apologizing because they got caught.[12][13]


BALENCIAGA balenciaga 1h : x WE SINCERELY APOLOGIZE FOR ANY OFFENSE OUR HOLIDAY CAMPAIGN MAY HAVE CAUSED. OUR PLUSH BEAR BAGS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN FEATURED WITH CHILDREN IN THIS CAMPAIGN. WE HAVE IMMEDIATELY REMOVED THE CAM- PAIGN FROM ALL PLATFORMS. BALENCIAGA balenciaga 25m x WE APOLOGIZE FOR DISPLAYING UNSETTLING DOCUMENTS IN OUR CAMPAIGN. WE TAKE THIS MATTER VERY SERIOUSLY AND ARE TAKING LEGAL ACTION AGAINST THE PARTIES RESPON- SIBLE FOR CREATING THE SET AND INCLUDING UNAPPROVED ITEMS FOR OUR SPRING 23 CAM- PAIGN PHOTOSHOOT. WE STRONGLY CONDEMN ABUSE OF CHILDREN IN ANY FORM. WE STAND FOR CHILDREN SAFETY AND WELL-BEING.

Michaël Borremans Book

Following the bear and Adidas ads, people began digging through Balenciaga's past campaign photos for other hidden pedophilic symbolism. An ad for the Balenciaga 2023 Garde-Robe (shown below) was found to feature a book by Belgian artist Michaël Borremans in the background, an artist who, in 2018, created a series of paintings for his Fire from the Sun series that feature naked toddlers covered in blood playing with severed limbs.[24]


Up TAFE BORREMANS HGLAK

Kanye West's Response

On November 26th, 2022, Kany West, who has worked with and represented Balenciaga on numerous occasions before, was interviewed by the paparazzi, where he talked about the controversy. In the interview, he says the fact that more celebrities aren't talking about the ads and that Balenciaga hasn't been canceled "shows you all celebrities are controlled," saying, "You don't see no celebrities talking about the Balenciaga situation." The interview was posted to YouTube[14] on that day, garnering over 360,000 views in two days.



Kim Kardashian's Response

On November 27th, 2022, Kim Kardashian, who has an ongoing business relationship with Balenciaga and often wears their pieces,[15] posted a statement to Twitter[16] about the ad campaign. In the Twitter thread, she writes, "As a mother of four, I have been shaken by the disturbing images" and denounces the normalization of child abuse in society. She then writes that she "appreciate[s] Balenciaga's removal of the campaigns and apology" and believes "they understand the seriousness of the issue and will take the necessary measures for this to never happen again." She finishes the thread by writing that she's "re-evaluating [her] relationship with the brand, basing it off their willingness to accept accountability for something that should have never happened to begin with." The initial tweet gained over 52,000 likes and 6,000 retweets in a day (shown below).


Kim Kardashian @KimKardashian - 17h I have been quiet for the past few days, not because I haven't been disgusted and outraged by the recent Balenciaga campaigns, but because I wanted an opportunity to speak to their team to understand for myself how this could have happened. 10.1K 16,602 Kim Kardashian @KimKardashian 52.6K Kim Kardashian @KimKardashian - 17h 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. 733 1842 ... 17.3K Kim Kardashian @Kim Kardashian - 17h I appreciate Balenciaga's removal of the campaigns and apology. In speaking with them, I believe they understand the seriousness of the issue and will take the necessary measures for this to never happen again. 1,712 t 1,337 12.5K : As for my future with Balenciaga, I am currently re- evaluating my relationship with the brand, basing it off their willingness to accept accountability for something that should have never happened to begin with - & the actions I am expecting to see them take to protect children. 7:48 PM - Nov 27, 2022. Twitter for iPhone

Kim's tweet inspired some criticism online, especially for the part about re-evaluating her relationship with Balenciaga, with many taking the statement as Kim saying she would not cut ties with the company (examples shown below).[17][18]


Layah Heilpern @LayahHeilpern Kim Kardashian says she hasn't decided whether she will cut ties with Balenciaga. Imagine being super rich and still choosing money instead of protecting children from paedophiles. And she's a mother! It's sick. 7:09 AM - Nov 28, 2022. Twitter for iPhone Rob Smith @robsmithonline Kim Kardashian divorced Kanye over a MAGA hat, but she's trying to work it out with the pedophiles at Balenciaga. Kim Kardashian @KimKardashian - 17h . I have been quiet for the past few days, not because I haven't been disgusted and outraged by the recent Balenciaga campaigns, but because I wanted an opportunity to speak to their team to understand for myself how this could have happened. Show this thread 10:50 PM - Nov 27, 2022. Twitter for iPhone

$25 Million Lawsuit Against North Six

On November 28th, 2022, the Washington Post[20] reported that Balenciaga is suing production company North Six and set designer Nicholas Des Jardins for $25 million for the photoshoot of the Adidas x Balenciaga Hourglass handbag, which features the United States v. Williams child porn case document in as set decoration. The lawsuit alleges that the fashion house made "inexplicable acts and omissions" that were "malevolent or, at the very least, extraordinarily reckless" without Balenciaga's knowledge.

According to Des Jardins' agent, in Nort Six's defence, the document was "obtained from a prop house." He also said, "Everyone from Balenciaga was on the shoot and was present on every shot and worked on the edit of every image in post-production.” A representative of Balenciaga said that no legal action would be taken in relation to the teddy bear ad. The lawsuit was discussed on The Breakfast Club on November 29th, garnering over 149,000 views in two days (shown below).



On November 30th, TMZ[21] reported that, according to "production sources," Balenciaga is suing North Six as a scapegoat to deflect attention from the teddy bear photoshoot controversy.

Balenciaga Drops Lawsuit

On December 3rd, 2022, it was reported that Balenciaga dropped their $25 million lawsuit against North Six. A clear reason for dropping the suit was not given. The president of Balenciaga, Cédric Charbit, apologized for the ads.[22][23]

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