After its controversial teddy bear holiday campaign, Balenciaga is taking legal action against the production company that created another scandalous ad campaign featuring a Balenciaga x Adidas Hourglass bag laid across documents relating to the 2008 United States v. Williams Supreme Court decision regarding child pornography laws.
In a lawsuit filed on Friday in New York State Supreme Court, Balenciaga is suing North Six Inc. and its agent and set designer Nicholas Des Jardins for $25 million in “extensive damages” that the campaign caused the luxury fashion house.
“Upon information and belief, Defendants, without Balenciaga’s knowledge or authorization, included certain documents in the campaign photographs, including an excerpt from a court decision upholding a criminal prohibition against child pornography,” Balenciaga alleged in court documents.
The company added in the filing that it believes North Six and Jardins’ “inexplicable acts and omissions” were “malevolent” and “extremely reckless.”
In a lengthy statement emailed to FN on Monday, Balenciaga said in part that it takes “full accountability” for its “lack of oversight and control of the documents in the background” of the photo and admits that it “could have done things differently.”
The fashion company went on to state that both internal and external investigations are currently underway, but has taken several immediate actions to remedy the situation. These include closely revising its organization and collective ways of working; reinforcing the structures around its creative processes and validation steps; and laying the groundwork with organizations who specialize in child protection and aims at ending child abuse and exploitation.
“We want to learn from our mistakes and identify ways we can contribute,” Balenciaga wrote in Monday’s statement. “Balenciaga reiterates its sincere apologies for the offense we have caused and extends its apologies to talents and partners.”
North Six declined to comment about the suit, but a source close to the production company told FN that North Six denies any involvement in producing the teddy bear holiday campaign. Instead, the source claimed North Six produced the “Garde-Robe” campaign featuring Nicole Kidman, which was released around the same time.
Last week, Balenciaga pulled the controversial campaigns from all platforms and apologized for the offense it caused.
“We apologize for displaying unsettling documents in our campaign,” the company wrote on Instagram last week. “We take this matter very seriously and are taking legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set and including unapproved items for our Spring 23 campaign photoshoot,” a brand statement published on Instagram read. “We strongly condemn abuse of children in any form. We stand for children safety and well-being.”
The controversy started earlier in the month when Balenciaga released its holiday ad campaign featuring children posing alongside handbags shaped like stuffed bears dressed in bondage gear. The bags first appeared on the runway in October as part of the house’s spring/summer 2023 collection.
In a separate statement on Instagram, Balenciaga also apologized for this campaign. “We sincerely apologize for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused. Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign. We have removed the campaign from all platforms,” the brand said in a statement posted to its Instagram Stories on Tuesday.
The controversial holiday campaign was shot by Gabriele Galimberti, a National Geographic photographer whose Instagram page highlights a 10-year project called “Toy Stories,” featuring images of children photographed with their favorite toys.
On Wednesday, Galimberti issued his own statement on Instagram after the inappropriate ads were pulled by the fashion house. “Following the hundreds of hate mails and messages I received as a result of the photos I took for the Balenciaga campaign, I feel compelled to make this statement,” Galimberti wrote. “I am not in a position to comment [on] Balenciaga’s choices, but 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.”
He explained that he was permitted only to light the prepared scene and shoot in his “signature style,” but noted that the “direction of the campaign and the choice of the objects displayed” were not in his control.
On Sunday, Kim Kardashian took to Instagram to express her take on the scandal. She wrote that she is “re-evaluating” her relationship with the brand following the campaign scandal. “I am currently re-evaluating my relationship with the brand, basing it off their willingness to accept accountability for something that should never have happened to begin with – and the actions I am expecting to see them take to protect children,” she said.