Balenciaga has filed a $25 million lawsuit against the production companies responsible for an ad campaign that featured children holding teddy bears wearing BDSM gear and, in one case, an “unsettling document,” drawing accusations of child sexualization.
On Friday, the luxury fashion house submitted papers to the Supreme Court of the State of New York naming set designer Nicholas Des Jardins, his company of the same name and North Six Inc. as defendants.
The brand seeks redress for “extensive damages” to its reputation caused by the Spring 2023 campaign. After the photos went viral, Balenciaga removed the images and issued an apology via Instagram.
“We sincerely apologize for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused,” read the official statement. “Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign.”
The statement also apologized for “displaying unsettling documents” in the campaign, referring to a printed copy of a court decision concerning child pornography that appeared in one of the photos.
Balenciaga condemned the inclusion of these “unapproved items” and said it will be taking legal action against the parties that created the set.
In the wake of the scandal, Gabriele Limberti, one of two photographers behind the photoshoot, wrote on Instagram that he had received “hundreds of hate mails and 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 said, noting that “the choice of the objects displayed are not in the hands of the photographer.”
He argued that his photographs were being unfairly targeted as pedophilic, distracting “from the real problem, and criminals.” Limberti emphasized that he has “no connection” to the image featuring the Supreme Court document.
Neither Limberti nor Chris Maggio, the photographer allegedly responsible for that photo will be subject to legal action, a Balenciaga spokesperson told The Daily Mail.
The controversy comes just over a month after Balenciaga cut ties with Kanye “Ye” West for making antisemitic remarks.
You can read the full notice and summons here.