The images, taken by photographer Gabriele Galimberti, are associated with the Balenciaga Gift Shop campaign, which features young children wearing the Balenciaga Kids line.
According to the original press release last week, “the campaign is a repeat of the Toy Story series exploring what people collect and get as gifts.”
In its initial press release, the company said the line features “dozens of new products, ranging from homewares, pet apparel and fragrances, from everyday items to limited edition collectibles and bespoke furniture.”
But reactions erupted on social media over the footage, which showed young children with plush teddy bear bags dressed in BDSM-like outfits. One child is shown with a set of empty wine glasses.
One Twitter user wrote: “Maybe Balenciaga has ‘apologised’, but everyone knows this campaign has missed people at the highest level. This is an advertising strategy, an attempt to attract attention with controversial content. I don’t accept their apologies and never will. Children should NEVER be sexualized.”
“We sincerely apologize for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused,” the statement said.
“Our teddy bear bags should not have been presented to children in this campaign. We have immediately removed this campaign from all platforms.”
Photographer Galimberti told CNN in a statement Wednesday that directing and filming the campaign is not in his power.
“I am unable to comment [on] The choice of Balenciaga, but I must emphasize that I had no right to choose (sic) in any way either products or models or a combination of them.
“As a photographer, I was asked only and exclusively to light (sic) this scene and take pictures in accordance with my corporate style.
“As usual, the direction of the campaign and the shooting is not in the hands of the photographer.”
He added: “I suspect that any person who is prone to pedophilia searches the Internet and, unfortunately, has too easy access to images that are completely different from mine, absolutely explicit in their terrible content. Such lynchings target the wrong targets and distract from the real problem and the perpetrators.”
“We are for the safety of children”
Hours after the apology, Balenciaga released another statement on Instagram apologizing for showing “disturbing documents” in a separate campaign, citing documents from a Supreme Court case involving child pornography laws.
“We apologize for displaying disturbing documents in our campaign. We are taking this matter very seriously and are suing the parties responsible for creating the set and including unapproved items for our Spring 23 campaign photoshoot,” the company said.
“We strongly condemn child abuse in any form. We stand for the safety and well-being of children.”
Galimberti said that he “has nothing to do with the photo that shows the Supreme Court document.”
Just last month, Balenciaga ended ties with the rapper formerly known as Kanye West after a series of anti-Semitic posts and controversial comments.
CNN has contacted Balenciaga’s parent company Kering for comment.