Written by Leah Asmelash, CNN

Balenciaga creative director Demna has issued a public apology for one of the fashion brand’s recent advertising campaigns, which featured images of young children cuddling teddy bears in fetish clothing.

“I want to personally apologize for the wrong artistic choice of concept for the gifting campaign with the kids and I take my responsibility,” Demna, who goes by his first name only, wrote in an Instagram statement Friday. “It was inappropriate to have kids promote objects that had nothing to do with them.”
The campaign, shot by photographer Gabriele Galimberti, was meant to promote a variety of new products from the Balenciaga Gift Shop.

It featured images of young children dressed in pieces from the Balenciaga Kids line. The plush bear bags, meanwhile, had been featured as accessories in Balenciaga’s Spring-Summer 2023 ready-to-wear show.

But many criticized the photos, arguing the bags were inappropriate for children.

In a statement provided to CNN last week, Galimberti said, “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 chose (sic) the products, nor the models, nor the combination of the same.”

‘The wrong artistic choice’

Demna’s statement continued, “As much as I would sometimes like to provoke a thought through my work, I would NEVER have an intention to do that with such an awful subject as child abuse that I condemn.” He added that he is committed to working with “child protection organizations” moving forward.

The luxury fashion house had previously apologized for the campaign last week, and retracted it campaign entirely.
Demna’s message was followed by an Instagram statement from Balenciaga’s president and CEO Cédric Charbit, who offered his own apology for “our mistakes” and shared a series of action items now being implemented at the fashion house.

These include a reorganization of the label’s image department, as well as new systems for both internal and external vetting of content and campaigns. Charbit promised communications training for Balenciaga employees, a “listening tour” with child advocacy groups and grants to “help make a difference in protecting children.”

Shortly after the Gift Shop campaign made headlines, the brand initiated a $25 million lawsuit over a separate campaign — for its Spring 2023 collection — which had also caused controversy. An image from this campaign featured pages from the 2008 Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Williams, “which confirms as illegal and not protected by freedom of speech the promotion of child pornography,” according to a statement Balenciaga provided to CNN earlier this week.

The campaign replicated a corporate environment, with shots staged in a “Manhattan office space.” The page from the ruling was visible atop a cluttered desk in one image. In court documents filed last Friday, Balenciaga argued the document’s presence on set was “malevolent or, at the very least, extraordinarily reckless” on the part of production company North Six, set designer Nicholas Des Jardins and his company.

All three should be held liable, the court filing stated.

But Charbit’s statement today said Balenciaga “has decided not to pursue litigation.” It did not provide a reason why.

CNN has reached out to North Six and Des Jardins for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.