As Brandon Morse reported Wednesday, Balenciaga apologized for using their “plush bear bags”(a/k/a BDSM bears) in an advertising campaign with children, and “for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused,” then announced that they “are taking legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set and including unapproved items for our spring 23 campaign photoshoot.” On Friday, Balenciaga made good on those words, filing a $25 million lawsuit.
From the New York Post:
The fashion house brought the suit Friday against production company North Six, Inc. and set designer Nicholas Des Jardins and his eponymous company. The ads included legal documents from a US Supreme Court decision on child porn laws.
. . .
Balenciaga is bringing the case “to seek redress for extensive damages defendants caused in connection with an advertising campaign Balenciaga hired them to produce,” the Manhattan Supreme Court summons alleges.
Many of the initial news stories focused on the inclusion of legal paperwork on the desk of a model, said paperwork including a court opinion in a noted child pornography case when one zoomed in. However, in many other images it wasn’t necessary to zoom in to see how disturbing the imagery was.
En las últimas horas hay tremendo escándalo montado con la última campaña de Balenciaga e igual no os enteráis de qué coño pasa. Así que abriré hilo explicándolo 👇🏽 pic.twitter.com/5wGKshIzS3
— gam (@mbafraudee) November 24, 2022
And, as Twitter users noted, the subliminal portion of the photos wasn’t limited to a printout of one court opinion related to child pornography. The “coffee table” books on the model’s desk are books depicting the work of an artist who paints naked, mutilated toddlers.
There's a book in one of Balenciaga's photos that's written by Michaël Borremans, an artist who created "Fire from the Sun," which is a series of paintings depicting naked toddlers. pic.twitter.com/77ERZMyZPL
— nikki (@ateenyalien) November 23, 2022
What were the parents of these child models thinking when they brought their offspring to the photo shoot?
Hey Photographers :
When Balenciaga hires you to shoot their new lookbook & you show up to find a toddler laid across a sofa with wine glasses & bondage gear arranged around them, you walk away. Period. pic.twitter.com/DSoHgQLM6O
— Hoop (@xhoop) November 21, 2022
One fashion photographer called out the ad campaign’s photographer, noting that he had viewed Instagram stories about the controversy while staying silent, but also pointing out that one photo from the campaign was related to a collaboration between Balenciaga and Adidas — Adidas being one brand that abruptly parted ways with Kanye West in the wake of his antisemitic remarks, and a brand that’s been silent in the face of child exploitation.
🙋♂️ Instagram story posts about this yesterday which the photographer, Gabriele, definitely saw : pic.twitter.com/nkWsUzCT6m
— Hoop (@xhoop) November 23, 2022
“Following the hundreds of hate mails and messages I received as a result of the photos I took for the Balenciaga campaign, I feel compelled to make this statement.”
“I am not in a position to comment [on] Balenciaga’s choices, but I must stress that I was not entitled in whatsoever manner to neither choose the products, nor the models, nor the combination of the same,” he continued.
He explained that he was permitted only to light the prepared scene and shoot in his “signature style,” but noted that the “direction of the campaign and the choice of the objects displayed” were not in his control.
So, whose control were they in? The lawsuit better suss that out, and quickly. One must bear in mind, though, that whatever name Balenciaga or the ad agency eventually provides as the decision-maker is almost certainly not the person ultimately in charge, and just someone all parties involved agreed was expendable — because Balenciaga’s campaign simply illustrates how Hollywood views children.
Balenciaga also claims that “the choice of the objects displayed” were not in their control, and that they were not aware that the court docs were part of the campaign:
Balenciaga claims North Six and Des Jardins included the images of the court docs without its knowledge – which was “malevolent or, at the very least, extraordinarily reckless,” the filing claims.
“As a result of Defendants’ misconduct, members of the public, including the news media, have falsely and horrifically associated Balenciaga with the repulsive and deeply disturbing subject of the court decision,” the court papers charge. “Defendants are liable to Balenciaga for all harm resulting from this false association.”
It’s not just children that Balenciaga exploits in its campaign. Domestic violence (or BDSM, take your pick) is glamorized:
Another photos from Balenciagas new ad campaign. A model with makeup to look like she has Black eyes.
— Oli London (@OliLondonTV) November 21, 2022
Of course, the first tactic the left employed to attempt to memory hole the episode was to label it a “right-wing conspiracy theory.”
Perez Hilton tried to say this is a right wing conspiracy on Tiktok. He’s not paying attention. I’ve yet to see a video defending them. Only this malaka. 🙄 WE ALL AGREE THE CP evidence was clear and we agree it’s depraved. It’s not political it’s WRONG. #perezhilton #Balenciaga pic.twitter.com/YidXQUibsv
— Scarlett James (@ScarlettJamesCC) November 25, 2022
Hilton did label the campaign inappropriate, tacky, and lame, but said he didn’t “view it as child porn.” Well, that’s a start, at least. At the bare minimum the ad sickeningly makes very young children sexual objects, and is indefensible.
It’s pretty hilarious that Balenciaga quit Twitter before this scandal, citing Elon Musk’s takeover as the reason. Or was the real reason for their departure the fact that Musk is getting serious about cleaning up child pornography on the site?