Balenciaga says it will drop lawsuit against production company in new statement

Balenciaga has revealed it will “not pursue litigation” against the production company in charge of a recent ad campaign, in which documents from a Supreme Court case on child pornography were visible.

On 2 December, Balenciaga posted a new statement to Instagram apologising for “the offense caused” by its holiday ad campaign and spring 2023 photoshoot. The Gift Shop ad featured children holding teddy bear bags dressed in bondage gear, while an image for a Balenciaga/Adidas purse showed a Supreme Court case involving child pornography scattered in the background.

“I want to personally reiterate my sincere apologies for the offense caused and take my responsibility,” said Balenciaga president and CEO, Cédric Charbit. “At Balenciaga, we stand together for children safety and do not tolerate any kind of violence and hatred message.”

In the statement, Balenciaga also described the actions it will be taking “with the objective to learn from our mistakes as an organisation.” These steps include implementing new control instances, such as content validation and an image board.

“Our current process for content validation has failed, and we recognise the need to do better,” the company said. “On the internal side, we nominate with immediate effect an image board responsible for evaluating the nature of our content from concept to final assets, including legal, sustainability and diversity expertise.”

“On the external side, we have appointed a best-in-class agency to assess and evaluate our content,” Balenciaga continued.

The brand has also reorganised its image department “to ensure full alignment with our corporate guidelines.

On 25 November, Balenciaga filed a lawsuit against production company North Six Inc, and its agent, Nicholas Des Jardins, in the New York State Supreme Court. The lawsuit accused the production company of engaging in “inexplicable acts and omissions” that were “malevolent or, at the very least, extraordinarily reckless.”

In return, Balenciaga was seeking $25m in monetary damages.

According to court documents, Balenciaga claimed the defendants included documents from the 2008 Supreme Court decision United States v Williams – which ruled on the constitutionality of prohibiting the pandering of child pornography – without its knowlege or authorisation.

Due to the production company’s “misconduct” in designing the spring 2023 campaign, Balenciaga alleged that “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.”

This is the third statement Balenciaga has shared since receiving backlash for the two ads last week. In its initial statement, the brand apologised for including children in a photoshoot for its teddy bear bags dressed in bondage, and for including the Supreme Court documents in the spring 2023 campaign. Balenciaga also announced it had removed both photoshoots from all platforms.

Soon after, Balenciaga “strongly condemned” child abuse in second statement and said it never intended to “include it in our narrative”.

The latest statement comes as Balenciaga’s creative director, Demna Gvasalia, issued an apology for the controversial ads and acknowledged that it wasn’t appropriate to include children in the photoshoot.

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