'It Was Inappropriate': Balenciaga's Creative Director Breaks Silence Amid Ad Campaign Controversy

The company has spoken out amid allegations that the company's Spring '23 campaign promoted inappropriate content involving children.

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By Emily Rella Originally published

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Balenciaga creative director Demna Gvasalia has finally broken his silence amid backlash and controversy over the fashion house's latest campaign which depicted puzzling photos of children and selected props.

"I want to personally apologize for the wrong artistic choice of concept for the gifting campaign with the kids and I take my responsibility. It was inappropriate to have kids promote objects that had nothing to do with them," he wrote. "As much as I would sometimes like to provoke a thought through my work, I would NEVER have an intention to do that with such an awful subject as child abuse that I condemn. Period."

Demna's remarks come jsut days after Balenciaga slammed the production team and set designer from its Spring 2023 campaign with a $25 million lawsuit.

The ads, which were shot in July, feature photographs of children holding what appear to be BDSM bears as well as a photograph of the brand's iconic "Hourglass" handbag, a piece made as a part of its collaboration with Adidas.

In one photo, court documentation can be seen on the desk where the Balenciaga bag is placed from the 2008 case titled United States vs. Williams. The controversial case ruled that the "pandering" of child pornography did not violate the First Amendment even if the person charged with such an offense did already possess said pornography to trade.

Balenciaga is now suing North Six (the company that produced the photoshoot) as well as the set designer, Nicholas Des Jardins.

The lawsuit, according to documents seen by The Washington Post, claim that "malevolent or, at the very least, extraordinarily reckless" decisions were made to the set without Balenciaga's knowledge or approval as the company is seeking nearly $25 million in damages due to the now publicly perceived association between the company and the "repulsive and deeply disturbing subject of the court decision."

DeJardin's team told Washington Post that "Everyone from Balenciaga was on the shoot and was present on every shot and worked on the edit of every image in post-production," in response to news of the lawsuit.

Still, many are calling for celebrities and notable figures to speak up and out about the disturbing campaigns and accusations Balenciaga has been facing since last week, seemingly none more than Kim Kardashian.

Kardashian, a muse and collaborator with the brand who starred in its Fall 2022 ad campaign, took to social media late Sunday evening to break her silence on the "disturbing images."

Kardashian did not provide any concrete update on the future of her business partnerships with the fashion house.

Original story below.

Balenciaga is in hot water for its latest ad campaign in which its being accused of promoting inappropriate conduct involving children — and now both the photographer and the company have spoken out.

The original ad campaign, which has since been pulled from the designer's social platforms and website, featured two young girls holding teddy bears that appear to be wearing BDSM bondage gear.

Upon further digging, others on social media noticed that one still shot of a Balenciaga bag on a desk featured a document from the court case Ashcroft vs. Free Speech Coalition, which ruled in favor of virtual child pornography.

A third image showed a red-haired woman sitting on a desk with a view of New York City, featuring a book on her desk by Michael Boerrman which displays nude images of children.

Livid viewers and shoppers took to the internet to bash the company and shame them for their now-viral campaign.

@natly.denise #Balenciaga IT GETS ????? #balenciagakidad ♬ original sound - natly.denise

Following the backlash, Balenciaga issued an apology via social media.

Instagram via Balenciaga

"We apologize for displaying unsettling documents in our campaign. 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," the company's story read. "We strongly condemn abuse of children in any form. We stand for children safety and well-being."

Following Balenciaga's statement, the photographer of the campaign, Gabriele Galimberti, penned a lengthy statement to his own Instagram account attempting to absolve himself from the creative decisions that were made in styling and itemizing the campaign.

"As a photographer, I was only and solely requested to lit the given scene, and take the shots according to my signature style," he said. "As usual for a commercial shooting, the direction of the campaign and the choice of the objects displayed are not in the hands of the photographer."

He also noted that he has been receiving "hundreds" of instances of hate mail and negative messages.

"I am not in a position to comment Balenciaga's choices, but I must stress that I was not entitled in whatsoever manner to neither chose the products, nor the models, nor the combination of the same," he insisted.

This isn't the first scandal to rock the designer this year.

Amid Kanye West's slew of antisemitic rants and hate speech last month, the company announced that it would be severing ties with the rapper after partnering with him on the now-defunct Yeezy Gap line.

"Balenciaga has no longer any relationship nor any plans for future projects related to this artist," Kering, Balenciaga's parent company, told WWD last month.

Emily Rella

Entrepreneur Staff

News Writer

Emily Rella is a news writer at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was an editor at Verizon Media. Her coverage spans features, business, lifestyle, tech, entertainment, and lifestyle. She is a 2015 graduate of Boston College and a Ridgefield, CT native. Find her on Twitter at @EmilyKRella.

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