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TikTok users protest Balenciaga's holiday campaign by destroying bags and shoes

"Child exploitation is never okay," one creator said in a video of herself throwing her Balenciaga sneakers in the trash.
A shop sign of BALENCIAGA, on May 07, 2022 in New-York City, USA.
A Balenciaga store in New York on May 7.David Niviere / Sipa USA via AP file

Some TikTok users are destroying Balenciaga purses, shoes and other luxury products in protest of the fashion house's holiday campaign, which portrayed children holding plush bears dressed in leather harnesses.

The campaign was criticized as inappropriate and harmful to children because the teddy bears appeared to be dressed in kink gear. Another Balenciaga ad image appeared to show an excerpt from a 2008 Supreme Court case that upheld federal statutes about pornography that includes minors.

Balenciaga apologized for the campaign last month, suggesting on Instagram that it hadn’t approved the images before the campaign went live. It also said it would pursue legal action.

“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 company said in the statement. “We strongly condemn abuse of children in any form. We stand for children safety and well-being.”

The company wiped the images of children with the leather-clad teddy bears from its social media accounts.

“Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign,” the company said. “We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms.”

Despite the apology, many online — including content creators and celebrities like Kim Kardashian — have continued to express outrage.

On TikTok, creators who were formerly loyal to Balenciaga posted videos admonishing it. Some took it further and recorded themselves destroying thousands of dollars' worth of Balenciaga products.

Kering, the French luxury goods corporation that owns Balenciaga, didn’t immediately respond to request for comment.

One creator burned her Balenciaga sock sneakers. Creator kermitnotkaren recorded herself tearing apart her Balenciaga hoodie. Gianna Avalos, a creator known as singlemomattorney, posted a video of herself cutting her leather tote, which she described as her “everyday bag.”

Devin Strebler, a nail artist and creator known as thenailaddict, posted a video of herself throwing multiple pairs of Balenciaga sneakers into a trash bin. In her caption, she clarified that she would ultimately donate or sell them; she said she wanted to encourage others to "stop supporting these horrible companies and celebrities that promote terrible things behind the scenes."

"Happy Thanksgiving to everyone except for Balenciaga. Child exploitation is never okay, I hope everyone involved gets exposed one day," Strebler wrote. "And for the record, I will be donating these or selling them- because I do understand that people need shoes."

Brian Brown, an interior designer, didn't go as far as to destroy his Balenciaga bag, but he did post a video cutting out the brand's logo.

"It’s shocking to me that you can stand up to antisemitism (which I applaud you for), then turn around and release an ad campaign that sexualizes children and glamorizes the sexual abuse of them. You’re total trash," Brown wrote in the caption.

Some joked that they never spent money on actual Balenciaga products — their "luxury" purses were just convincing knockoffs.

"When your friends ask if you're cancelling Balenciaga but you got yours from DHG8 anyway," TikTok creator kbinluxury wrote in a video, referring to the Chinese e-commerce marketplace known for its high-end dupes. "They never got a coin from me."