Balenciaga Wipes Brand's Instagram, Addresses Controversial Campaigns: 'This Was a Wrong Choice'

Balenciaga storefront
Balenciaga storefront

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Balenciaga is addressing backlash over its recent ad campaigns.

The luxury brand — which has been under fire for its holiday ad that appears to show kids holding teddy bears dressed in bondage — deleted all its photos on Instagram and uploaded a single photo with a statement explaining its actions.

"We strongly condemn child abuse; it was never our intent to include it in our narrative," the statement read. "The two separate ad campaigns in question reflect a series of grievous errors for which Balenciaga takes responsibility."

Balenciaga went on to address their first "gift collection" campaign, which they said features children with "plush bear bags dressed in what some have called BDSM-inspired outfits." The brand said that the items "should not have been featured with children."

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"This was a wrong choice by Balenciaga, combined with our failure in assessing and validating images," the statement said. "The responsibility for this lies with Balenciaga alone."

The shoot's photographer, Gabriele Galimberti, also issued a statement on Instagram, claiming in part that he "was not entitled in whatsoever manner to neither chose [sic] the products, nor the models, nor the combination of the same."

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Galimberti added, "As a photographer, I was only and solely requested to lit the given scene, and take the shots according to my signature style."

The brand then addressed a second controversial "office" campaign for Spring 2023, which included a photo with a page from a Supreme Court ruling of United States v. Williams in the background. That ruling deemed the promotion of child pornography illegal and not protected under freedom of speech.

Balenciaga said it had believed that all the items in the shoot had been fake documents and received written confirmation from third parties of this, but alleged the documents turned out to be "real legal papers" instead. The company filed a $25 million lawsuit against production company North Six, Inc., and set designer Nicholas Des Jardins, per the New York Post.

While representatives for North Six, Inc., declined to comment, a source close to the company — who did not work on the teddy bear campaign — tells PEOPLE, "At no point for the Spring '23 ad campaign did North Six have involvement in the creative direction of the shoot and was not physically on site for the final set arrangement as Balenciaga wanted it to be a closed set."

A rep for Des Jardins did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

"We take full accountability for our lack of oversight and control of the documents in the background and we could have done things differently," Balenciaga said.

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It noted that both internal and external investigations are being done at the company, and in the meantime it will reinforce its structures pertaining to creative processes and validation. The company said it wants new controls to "prevent this from happening again."

In addition to changing internal processes, the company said it will lay "the groundwork" with organizations that specialize in child protection and aim to end child exploitation and abuse.

"We want to learn from our mistakes and identify ways we can contribute," Balenciaga said.

The brand ended its statement with another apology to its "talent and partners."

One of those partners includes Kim Kardashian, who spoke out on Sunday condemning the company for its controversial teddy bear campaign.

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"As a mother of four, I have been shaken by the disturbing images," she said. "The safety of children must be held with the highest regard, and any attempts to normalize child abuse of any kind should have no place in our society — period."

"I appreciate Balenciaga's removal of the campaigns and apology. In speaking with them, I believe they understand the seriousness of the issue and will take the necessary measures for this to never happen again," Kardashian said.

She added that she would also be "reevaluating my relationship with the brand."