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Reality show star and social media titan Kim Kardashian said she is "re-evaluating" her involvement with luxury fashion house Balenciaga, after it apologized for ads featuring children holding teddy bears wearing what critics called bondage gear.
The French brand, part of the luxury Kering group, last week withdrew the photos from the Spring/Summer 2023 advertising campaign. Two of them showed young children holding handbags in the shape of teddy bears, which were wearing black leather straps with silver studs.
Internet commentators noticed another photo from a Balenciaga-Adidas ad collaboration showed printed documents from a US Supreme Court ruling on child pornography.
After that revelation, Balenciaga filed a $25 million lawsuit against the company that produced the advertisements, according to reports.
"As a mother of four, I have been shaken by the disturbing images," Kardashian, a celebrity ambassador for the brand, wrote on Instagram Sunday night, adding that she had spent the last few days talking with the Balenciaga team "to understand for myself how this could have happened."
"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.
"As for my future with Balenciaga, I am currently re-evaluating my relationship with the brand," the star posted to her account, which has 74 million followers.
Last week, Balenciaga posted an apology on its own Instagram account.
"Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign. We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms," the post said.
They then posted another apology, this time addressing the ad that featured the court documents referencing child pornography laws.
"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," the post said.
The New York Post reported that Balenciaga had filed a $25 million lawsuit against production company North Six and set designer Nicholas Des Jardins.
Amelia Brankov, a lawyer for Des Jardins, said 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," she told AFP.
"Moreover, representatives from Balenciaga were present at the shoot, overseeing it and handling papers and props, and Des Jardins as a set designer was not responsible for image selection from the shoot," the lawyer added.
For Balenciaga, who apologized again on Monday following Kardashian's comments, the controversy comes at a bad time.
It had ended its partnership with Kardashian's ex-husband, rapper and designer Kanye West, last month after West, also known as Ye, posted an anti-Semitic tweet and appeared at a Paris fashion show wearing a shirt with the slogan "White Lives Matter," a rebuke to the Black Lives Matter racial equality movement.