Balenciaga Hits Producers of Controversial Ad With $25M Lawsuit

Balenciaga Hits Producers of Controversial Ad With $25M Lawsuit

Balenciaga is suing the production company that handled an ad campaign linking the French fashion house with child pornography.

Balenciaga says North Six made “inexplicable acts and omissions” by displaying in an ad a court decision upholding a criminal prohibition against child pornography, according to a complaint seeking $25 million filed on Friday in the New York State Supreme Court. It alleges that the production house’s “malevolent, or at the very least, extraordinarily reckless” supervising of the ad has led to the “false association” between the company and the “repulsive and deeply disturbing subject of the court decision.”

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The Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in United States v. Williams, which affirmed the constitutionality of a law barring the pandering of child pornography, was partially visible — but not immediately noticeable — in the ad for a black bag with three vertical stripes. The campaign was released shortly after Balenciaga apologized for another ad, which isn’t the subject of this suit, featuring children posing with teddy bears that are dressed in what appears to be bondage gear.

Balenciaga in a statement on Instagram said that it was assured that the papers included in the ad were “fake office documents” but “turned out to be real legal papers most likely coming from the filming of a television drama.”

“The inclusion of these unapproved documents was the result of reckless negligence for which Balenciaga has filed a complaint,” reads the statement from the company, which said it’s “reinforcing the structures around our creative processes and validation steps.”

The ad, which has been removed from the company’s website, was part of its Spring 2023 collaboration with Adidas. Balenciaga has also drawn criticism for delaying a decision to cut ties with Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, for antisemitic comments.

North Six declined to comment. A representative for the company stressed that it wasn’t associated with Balenciaga’s prior ad of children with teddy bears, didn’t have creative input over the shoot and wasn’t on set during final arrangements.

Kim Kardashian, who frequently collaborates with Balenciaga, said on Twitter she’s “re-evaluating my relationship with the brand, basing it off their willingness to accept accountability for something that should have never happened to begin with — & the actions I am expecting to see them take to protect children.”

Photographer Gabriele Galimberti, who shot Balenciaga’s ad of the children that was subsequently taken down, said in a statement on Instagram posted last week that he had no input in what props or models were used in the campaign.

“I was only and solely requested to lit the given scene, and take the shots according to my signature style,” he said. “As usual for a commercial shooting, the direction of the campaign and the choice of the objects displayed are not in the hands of the photographer.”