High-fashion brand Balenciaga is facing backlash for an ad campaign that features photos of child models holding teddy bears dressed in bondage gear; the brand also used an image of a Supreme Court opinion in a child pornography case as a prop promoting a handbag.
The photographer for the ad campaign, Gabriele Galimberti, said the images were part of a project series called "Toy Stories," according to his Instagram page. The images, which now appear to be mostly scrubbed from the global brand’s website, sparked outrage from conservative activists.
Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, a conservative women’s rights group, called the images "exploitive propaganda."
"This is not about them being provocative and getting attention," Nance said in an interview with Fox News Digital. "The entire campaign sexualizes children, period. It is child exploitation, period. And it feeds and normalizes a culture that is dark and depraved."
"Balenciaga needs to answer for it," she added.
Kelsey Bolar with the Independent Women’s Forum echoed that sentiment: "Balenciaga has no business introducing ‘bondage,’ a perverse adult sexual practice, to young children."
"Worse, the fashion house is using these images to advertise its products, essentially profiting from the sexualization of children," she said. "The desire to sexualize innocent children is a disturbing trend that’s emerged in today’s culture, and this is a twisted, disturbing example."
Another photograph featured on the Balenciaga website to promote their "Hourglass" handbag in collaboration with Adidas also drew attention from critics. The photograph captures the handbag on a desk with a portion of a page from a Supreme Court opinion, U.S. v. Williams, which criminalized the pandering of child pornography.
The visible portion of that court document in the photo has a reference to another Supreme Court case, Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, in which the court struck down a portion of the Child Pornography Prevention Act (CPPA) of 1996 and said that virtual child pornography is protected speech.
"They are trying to chum up attention by incorporating a Supreme Court child porn pandering case as window dressing. It’s connecting child porn with their product," said Benjamin Bull, general counsel for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. "It’s an exploitative attention-getting device."
Mary Morgan, host of the YouTube show "Pop Culture Crisis," noted the brand’s recent departure from Twitter, suggesting that the move may have been inspired by Elon Musk’s new leadership as CEO, who recently said his top priority will be to address child exploitative content on the site.
"Balenciaga recently dropped off of Twitter, and it's highly suspicious as they just dropped an ad campaign featuring children holding teddy bears in bondage gear and a poorly hidden court document about ‘virtual child p---,’" she wrote to Fox News Digital. "The Balenciaga Instagram account has deleted all posts as well. When a big tech platform finally enforces their rules against the exploitation of children (even under the guise of ‘art’), pay close attention to the brands or individuals who make haste toward the exit."
Balenciaga did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment on the photographs and creative decisions behind the campaign.
Actress Nicole Kidman is featured in the brand’s campaign for its spring 2023 collection. Kim Kardashian and Bella Hadid have also been prominent ambassadors for the brand.