Balenciaga apologizes amid outcry over ad featuring sexualized children

Balenciaga apologizes amid outcry over ad featuring sexualized children

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Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 28, 2022 / 16:35 pm (CNA).

Top luxury fashion brand Balenciaga has issued an apology after outcry over the company’s recent ad campaign featuring young children surrounded by sexualized symbols.

In the ad, young children — appearing to be no older than 6 years old — hold stuffed teddy bears that are dressed in leather bondage gear, including fishnet tights and chains used in BDSM (bondage, discipline/dominance, submission, and sadomasochism).

The images went viral on social media, provoking public outrage over other disturbing elements in the photographic ad series, including court documents in one photo that reference child abuse and pornography. 

“The ads blatantly exploit the innocence of children to glamorize perversity and sell merchandise,” Mary Rice Hasson, director of the Person and Identity Project for the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told CNA. 

Balenciaga has since removed all traces of the ad campaign and deleted or hidden all of its Instagram posts.

Kim Kardashian, a frequent partner with the Spanish-based designer and wearer of its products, said Sunday she was “re-evaluating” her relationship with the brand.

“As a mother of four, I have been shaken by the disturbing images,” Kardashian tweeted. “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.”

Kardashian said she would base her assessment on the company’s “willingness to accept accountability for something that should have never happened to begin with” and “the actions I am expecting to see them take to protect children.”

The company issued an apology on Instagram shortly after Kardashian’s reproof, stating it “strongly condemn[ed] child abuse” and that the “BDSM-inspired outfits” “should not have been featured in a photoshoot with children.”

“It was never our intent to include it in our narrative,” the post read. “We could have done things differently.”

The post blamed third-party entities for providing court documents of a real Supreme Court ruling on child pornography for the photoshoot. 

“All the items included in this shooting were provided by third parties that confirmed in writing that these props were fake office documents,” the post read. 

“The inclusion of these unapproved documents was the result of reckless negligence for which Balenciaga has filed a complaint.” 

The brand has since sued production company North Six, Inc. for including the legal documents in the ad for damages of $25 million.

According to Hasson, Balenciaga’s “thin apologies” are “calculating and ultimately meaningless.”

“Balenciaga and its elite designers had no qualms about surrounding children with perverse sexual images to push its products. They care about money, not morality,” Hasson said.

Social media activists have also drawn attention to disturbing content posted by the brand’s main stylist, Lotta Volkova, featuring photographs of children mutilated or held hostage.

Patrina Mosley, who formerly worked in leadership at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, told CNA that Balenciaga’s advertisements are part of a growing push to “normalize pedophilia.” 

Mosley currently serves as a national advisory board member for Project 21, a Black leadership network that promotes the voices of conservative and moderate African Americans. 

“From Jeffery Epstein to Balenciaga, elite society is telling us exactly what they want — and that’s to normalize pedophilia. We still do not have the client list of those who frequented Epstein’s pedo-island, and who knows how long Balenciaga has been incorporating insidious nods to child sexual abuse in their campaigns. This is evil and just flat-out satanic,” Mosley said.

“As adults we have a responsibility to protect children, and they are grooming our children right in front of our faces for the next phase of liberalization: pedophilia, or as they have already begun to call it, MAPs: minor-attracted people,” Mosley warned.

Balenciaga did not respond to CNA’s request for comment. 

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