Balenciaga has filed a $25 million lawsuit against the producers of its campaign ad that featured a Supreme Court decision on child pornography laws.
The photo ad of a $3,000 purse from Balenciaga’s Spring/Summer 2023 collection included a printout of the 2008 United States v. Williams decision, which ruled on the constitutionality of a federal law banning the “pandering” of child pornography.
Social media users unearthed the ad amid another controversy the French fashion house is already under fire for: a childrenwear campaign that featured kids holding teddy bears dressed in bondage.
As of this writing, the hashtags #BalenciagaGate, #BalenciagaGroomers and #BalenciagaPedos appear as top search results on Twitter, with users still slamming the company after it issued back-to-back apology statements.
The suit filed on Friday centers only on the Supreme Court printout. Balenciaga is seeking $25 million from production company North Six, Inc. and set designer Nicholas Des Jardins, who both allegedly included the document without its knowledge.
The luxury brand described the document’s inclusion as “malevolent or, at the very least, extraordinarily reckless.” The ad first appeared at Paris Fashion Week.
“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. Defendants are liable to Balenciaga for all harm resulting from this false association,” the suit alleges.
A North Six representative said the company managed the logistics and contracted the set designer, according to the New York Post. On the other hand, Gabriela Moussaieff, Des Jardins’ agent, told The Washington Post that the court papers used in the ad “were obtained from a prop house that were rental pieces used on film [and] photo shoots.”
Moussaieff believes Des Jardins is “being used as a scapegoat” in the scandal. “Everyone from Balenciaga was on the shoot and was present on every shot and worked on the edit of every image in post production,” Moussaieff said.
As for the teddy bear controversy, renowned Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti — who also claimed to be on the receiving end of hate messages — maintained that all he did was take photos.
“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,” Galimberti wrote in an Instagram post. “As a photographer, I was only and solely requested to light the given scene, and take the shots according to my signature style. 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.”
Reality TV star and entrepreneur Kim Kardashian, who in the past has worked as an ambassador for Balenciaga, wrote in a Twitter thread that she was “shaken by the disturbing images” and is “currently re-evaluating my relationship with the brand”
Balenciaga has been involved in numerous controversies in recent years, including among Asian communities. In 2018, the fashion house was criticized after a Chinese man was allegedly manhandled in a Paris store; in 2020, the brand was accused of appropriating the work of a Vietnamese fashion designer.