Balenciaga’s Holiday Ad Campaign Sparked Controversy

How it started?

Balenciaga, the fashion house, released its holiday ad campaign earlier this month, featuring children holding teddy bears in bondage harnesses.

In a separate ad that dropped on November 21 promoting Balenciaga’s spring/summer 2023 collection, a bag from the fashion house’s collaboration with Adidas was photographed atop copies of what appear to be documented from the Supreme Court case United States v. Williams, a ruling that upheld the PROTECT Act, which increased federal protections against child pornography. Both campaigns quickly became a conservative talking point and sparked conspiracy theories.

How It Affected Balenciaga? 

The backlash against the images has been swift, with the hashtag #cancelBalenciaga trending across Twitter and TikTok and many accusing the brand and its creative director, Demna, of condoning pedophilia and child exploitation.

How did The Brand Responded?

In two Instagram Stories, the fashion house apologized for the plush bears, which it said should not have been featured with children in this campaign,” as well as the “unsettling documents” in the separate spring/summer 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. We strongly condemn the abuse of children in any form. We stand for children’s safety and well-being.”

The fashion house filed a $25 million lawsuit on November 25 against North Six, Inc. and set designer Nicholas Des Jardins regarding the controversial campaign image featuring the court documents (which was separate from the image featuring the teddy bears).