Balenciaga's Denma Gvasalia issues apology for 'inappropriate' ad campaign featuring kids

The luxury brand issued an apology on Instagram for the recent advertisements.

December 2, 2022, 3:23 PM

Balenciaga's creative director Denma Gvasalia has broken his silence regarding the brand's recent controversial ad campaign.

"I want to personally apologize for the wrong artistic choice of concept for the gifting campaign with the kids and I take my responsibility," Gvasalia wrote in a statement on Instagram Friday. "It was inappropriate to have kids promote objects that had nothing to do with them."

"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.

The famed creative said that he needed to "learn from this, listen and engage with child protection organizations to know how I can contribute and help on this terrible subject."

The apology comes after the luxury brand faced backlash for featuring children with sexualized teddy bears in a recent ad campaign.

Balenciaga's president and CEO Cédric Charbit also issued a statement on Friday, addressing what actions would be taken with the objective of learning from the company's mistakes as an organization.

"Our current process for content validation has failed, and we recognize the need to do better," said Charbit. He also shared that the company has reorganized its image department to ensure full alignment with corporate guidelines.

The company also confirmed Friday that it would be dropping a lawsuit previously filed with the New York State Supreme Court for the County of New York against the North Six production company, as well as set designer Nicholas Des Jardins, over a separate Spring 2023 ad campaign, which included a photo that showed a Supreme Court ruling on child pornography laws.

Balenciaga had accused North Six and Des Jardins of "malevolent or, at the very least, extraordinarily reckless" conduct in its work on that ad campaign, though a source close to North Six told "Good Morning America" on Monday that the production company had only handled logistics for the shoot, did not have creative control or input in the campaign, and was not on set during final arrangements. An attorney for Des Jardins said in an email statement that same day that Balenciaga had rented the papers for the shoot "from a prop house" and that "representatives from Balenciaga were present at the shoot, overseeing it and handling papers and props."

"...Des Jardins as a set designer was not responsible for image selection from the shoot," they added.

PHOTO: A Balenciaga logo seen in Shenzhen, China, Oct. 10, 2019.
A Balenciaga logo seen in Shenzhen, China, Oct. 10, 2019.
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The company previously addressed the ad controversies in a statement on Nov. 22.

"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 immediately removed the campaign from all platforms," the company wrote in a statement posted to its Instagram story at the time.

The advertisements, posted back in November, were for the brand's new holiday gifting campaign. The photos featured children posing with the company's plush bear bags, which wore BDSM-inspired harnesses.

One photo featured a child standing on a bed with one of the bear bags, surrounded by other purses and accessories that included what appeared to be a chain leash as well as a Balenciaga-branded dog collar choker.

Social media users immediately called out the brand's campaign on Twitter, with some also denouncing a promotional photo of a purse from Balenciaga's Spring 2023 ad campaign, which showed documents including the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on United States vs. Williams (2008), which upheld part of a federal child pornography law.

PHOTO: The exterior of a Balenciaga store, March 22, 2022, in Munich, Germany.
The exterior of a Balenciaga store, March 22, 2022, in Munich, Germany.
Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images

"We apologize for displaying unsettling documents in our campaign. 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. We strongly condemn abuse of children in any form. We stand for children's safety and well-being," the company said in its Nov. 22 statement.

The Spanish luxury label made headlines previously for cutting ties with Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, after he made antisemitic comments on social media and in several interviews. Ye had walked in Balenciaga's Paris Fashion Week show just weeks earlier.

The brand left Twitter on Nov. 15, shortly after billionaire Elon Musk bought the company for $44 billion in October, but remains on Instagram.

ABC News' Jacqueline Laurean Yates and Melanie Schmitz contributed to this report.

This story was originally published on Nov. 22, 2022.

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