As NPR and CNN report, Balenciaga sued production company North Six as well as set designer Nicholas Des Jardins for their role in creating a controversial ad that was part of the campaign. The ad, for a $3,000 purse, became a lightning rod after online critics noticed, amidst an office-themed backdrop, a page from a Supreme Court decision on child pornography.
Balenciaga has apologized for the ad, but it maintained that all of the items used were “provided by third parties that confirmed in writing that these props were fake office documents." The company said that the props "turned out to be real legal papers most likely coming from the filming of a television drama.” Balenciaga added that it’s investigating the incident and looking into working with groups that fight child abuse.
In court documents, Balenciaga alleged a belief that North Six and Des Jardins’ “inexplicable acts and omissions were malevolent or, at the very least, extraordinarily reckless.” Balenciaga claims that North Six and Des Jardins should be held liable for harm resulting from the company being “falsely and horrifically associated … with the repulsive and deeply disturbing subject of the court decision.” Balenciaga seeks at least $25 million in damages.
A North Six spokesperson told CNN that the production company “did not have creative input or control over the shoot. North Six was not on set during the final set arrangements.” A lawyer for Des Jardins and his company said that “there certainly was no malevolent scheme going on. As Balenciaga is aware, numerous boxes of documents simply were sourced from a prop house as rental items.”
The Supreme Court decision page may not have drawn public scrutiny if not for a previous Balenciaga ad campaign, which both North Six and Des Jardins said they were not involved with. That campaign featured images of children clutching teddy bears and wearing fishnet tops and leather harnesses.
Balenciaga apologized for that campaign as well, as The Independent reports. The products included in the ads “should not have been featured with children,” the company said, adding, “This was a wrong choice by Balenciaga, combined with our failure in assessing and validating images.”
According to The Fashion Law, while the lawsuit may have been intended to clear Balenciaga’s name, it has also brought more attention to the offending ads, with some critics viewing the legal action as an effort to deflect blame. The news site concluded that Balenciaga must have weighed its options and decided that a court filing, sure to be widely covered in the press, was its best damage-control approach.
Kim Kardashian, an ambassador for Balenciaga, said on social media that she was “re-evaluating” her ties to the company. “The safety of children must be held with the highest regard and any attempts to normalize child abuse of any kind should have no place in our society—period,” she wrote.