Balenciaga is suing production company for $25 million over controversial campaign

contributors Lianne Kolirin, CNNToyin Owoseje, CNN

Luxury fashion house Balenciaga is suing the production company behind its Spring 2023 ad campaign after one of the images identified documents related to a Supreme Court ruling on child pornography.

The label, which has previously been convicted of another campaign involving children, filed a lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court on Friday. Balenciaga is seeking at least $25 million in damages from production company North Six, Inc., set designer Nicholas Des Jardins and his company

Balenciaga hired North Six and Des Jardins to develop and produce its spring 2023 campaign, the court’s subpoena said.

The campaign, which starred actress Nicole Kidman and model Bella Hadid, was said to recreate a corporate setting, with the shots being set in “Manhattan office spaces.”

However, on a messy desk seen in one picture, the mess visibly contained a page from the Supreme Court’s 2008 ruling in United States v. Williams, a case “regarding the promotion of child pornography as illegal and not through freedom of speech protected. ‘” said a statement Balenciaga provided to CNN on Monday.

The court document alleges that Balenciaga, which is owned by French luxury conglomerate Kering, was unaware of that particular document and did not authorize its inclusion.

In his statement to CNN, Balenciaga said, “All items included in this shoot were provided by third parties who have confirmed in writing that these props were forged office documents from the theater.”

Balenciaga said in the subpoena that it believes the defendants’ “inexplicable acts and omissions were malicious or at least extraordinarily reckless.”

The court filings allege that as a result of the defendants’ actions, “members of the public, including the news media, have wrongly and horribly associated Balenciaga with the repugnant and deeply troubling subject matter of the court decision.” North Six and Des Jardins, it says, should be held liable for “any damages resulting from this misconnection.”

Amelia K. Brankov, an attorney for Nicholas Des Jardins and his company, Nicholas Des Jardins LLC, said in an email statement to CNN that “there was certainly no malicious conspiracy. As Balenciaga knows, numerous boxes of documents were simply moved into a prop house as rental items.”

“Additionally, Balenciaga representatives were present at the shoot, supervising it and handling papers and props,” Brankov continued, “and Des Jardins, as set designer, was not responsible for the selection of images from the shoot.”

A North Six representative said the production company had “no creative input or control over the shooting. North Six wasn’t on set during the final set arrangements.”

bad judgement

As Balenciaga continues its own investigation into the matter, Balenciaga said it accepts responsibility for its lack of oversight and control over the campaign images.

“We are strengthening the structures around our creative processes and validation steps. We want to ensure that new controls mark a pivotal point and prevent this from happening again,” it said in a statement. “Balenciaga reiterates its sincere apologies for the insult we have caused and apologizes to talent and partners.”

Balenciaga also addressed the widespread outrage and condemnation of another recent campaign that saw children cuddle dressed teddy bears in fetish clothing.

“We condemn in the strongest terms child abuse; it was never our intention to include him in our narrative,” the company said. “Our bear plush bags and gift collection should not have been shown with children. This was a wrong decision by Balenciaga coupled with our failure to evaluate and validate images. The responsibility for this lies solely with Balenciaga.”

Kim Kardashian, who was the fashion label’s ambassador, spoke ahead of the campaign on Sunday after receiving a spate of messages from fans and commenters urging her to slam the brand.

Kardashian said she is “reevaluating” her working relationship with Balenciaga and that, as a mother, she was “shattered by the disturbing images.”

“Child safety must be held with the utmost respect and any attempts to normalize child abuse of any kind should have no place in our society — period,” she told her 74.2 million Twitter followers.
Balenciaga apologized for the campaign last week and said it had “immediately removed the campaign from all platforms”.
Photographer Gabriele Galimberti told CNN in a statement last week that directing and shooting the teddy bear campaign was out of his hands.

“I’m not in a position to comment on Balenciaga’s choices, but I must emphasize that I was in no way authorized to choose either the products, the models, or the combination of the same… as usual, the campaign and the shoot are directed not in the hands of the photographer.”

Both North Six and a representative from Nicholas Des Jardins LLC said they were not involved in the stuffed bear campaign.

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