Own. creative director of Balenciaga, Demnabroke his silence on the brand’s controversial teddy bear ad, which featured children posing with stuffed animals in BDSM-esque clothing.
After weeks of backlash, Demna, 41, released a statement via Instagram on Friday December 2 calling the campaign “inappropriate”.
“I would like to personally apologize for the wrong choice of artistic concept for the gift drive with the children,” he began. “I take my responsibility. It was inappropriate to have children promote objects that had nothing to do with them.”
He went on to explain that while he often tries to “provoke thought” through his work, he “would NEVER intend to do that on a subject as horrifying as child abuse, which I condemn. Period.”
He added: “I need to learn from this, listen and work with child protection organizations to know how I can contribute and help on this terrible issue. My apologies to anyone who is offended by the images and Balenciaga has guaranteed that appropriate action will be taken not only to avoid similar mistakes in the future, but also to take responsibility in every way possible to protect children’s welfare .”
Earlier this month, the luxury label launched a ‘Toy Stories’ campaign on its website, which featured young children from all backgrounds being photographed holding Balenciaga’s plush bear bags. The accessories were seen strapped into harnesses and other inappropriate items, prompting immediate backlash online.
Demna’s apology comes after the fashion house addressed the ad on November 28.
“We condemn in the strongest terms child abuse,” the memo said. “It was never our intention to include it in our narrative. The two advertising campaigns in question reflect a series of serious errors for which Balenciaga takes responsibility… This was a wrong decision by Balenciaga, combined with our failure to evaluate and validate images. The responsibility for this lies solely with Balenciaga.”
The company also spoke about the campaign image, which included Supreme Court documents from the 2008 case USA v. William, which criminalized child pornography.
“The second, separate campaign for Spring 2023, designed to recreate an office setting, featured a photo with a page in the background from a 2008 United States Supreme Court ruling, “United States V. Williams,” upheld as illegal and not protected by Freedom of speech promotes child pornography,” Balenciaga wrote in the statement. “All items contained in this shoot were provided by third parties who have confirmed in writing that these papers are counterfeit office documents. It turned out to be genuine legal paperwork, most likely from filming a television drama.”
Balenciaga stated that the inclusion of the legal papers was “not authorized” and announced internal and external investigations and plans to further protect children.
“We’re rethinking our organization and our collective ways of working,” Balenciaga said. “We are strengthening the structures around our creative processes and validation steps. We want to ensure that new controls mark a tipping point and will prevent this from happening again. We are laying the foundation together with organizations that specialize in child protection and aim to end child abuse and exploitation.”
Balenciaga removed the images from its website on November 22.
Still, the malicious ad has been met with criticism. Kim Kardashianwho became an ambassador for the brand in February, slammed the ad and said she was “reevaluating” her “relationship” with Balenciaga.
Bethenny Frankel also spoke out, calling the incident “egregious, outrageous and symbolically damaging”. Aria Luyendyk Jr. and Lauren Burnham expressed their disappointment by setting fire to their Balenciaga items. Brittany Aldeanmeanwhile, threw away bags of branded clothing.