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23 Nov, 2022 11:13

Balenciaga apologizes for ‘kiddy porn’ advert

Fashion brand accused of endorsing sexual abuse of children with bondage-themed photoshoot
Balenciaga apologizes for ‘kiddy porn’ advert

The luxury fashion brand Balenciaga has issued an apology after its promotional campaign with child models and BDSM-styled teddy bears caused online ire. The firm has threatened legal action against unidentified responsible parties.

The promo material was created for Balenciaga’s spring/summer collection featuring teddy bear handbags and was published earlier this month. It featured girls, who looked pre-teen, hugging or standing next to plush toys that appeared to be dressed in BDSM-style attire.

The statement, published on Tuesday on the company’s Instagram Stories, said it had pulled the controversial ads from all platforms.

“Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign,” it read. “We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms.”

A tweet that went viral this week said Balenciaga had used as a prop a legal document referring to “virtual child porn.” The picture, however, was from a different photoshoot released in November in collaboration with Adidas. 

Some eagle-eyed commentators said it mentioned the 2002 Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition litigation. The US Supreme Court struck down portions of federal legislation outlawing child porn, which, plaintiffs argued, went against the First Amendment. The ruling agreed that the government could not ban images that were not obscene and the production of which did not involve abuse of children.

Some media outlets identified the page as coming from the Supreme Court ruling on the 2008 United States v. Williams case. That decision upheld another federal act aimed against child porn, which was challenged on freedom-of-speech grounds.

The company acknowledged that documents featured in its promotional materials were “unsettling,” and promised legal action “against the parties responsible.”

The controversy was highlighted by Fox News host Tucker Carlson on his Monday show. He blasted the clothing brand for making “an endorsement of kiddy porn” with the ad campaign. He challenged anyone to offer a more plausible explanation of what the images were supposed to convey and lashed out at Instagram for allowing such pictures on its platform.

Some people claimed that Balenciaga had wiped its Instagram feed amid the controversy, but these were contested by Newsweek. The company did purge its page in early October in support of protesters in Iran, and previously did so for other political causes, as well as to mark the retirement of fashion icon Jean Paul Gaultier.

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