Benetton, a popular Italian fashion brand, is under fire for using images of children in their underwear to promote their products in a new ad. Online netizens claimed the ad sexualises children and encourages pedophilia.
The advertisement features child models posing in their underwear as well as T-shirts and jackets from the collection. Benetton has since deleted the ads after being called out publicly by American actress Busy Philipps for "sexualising" children. In her Instagram Story post on Christmas Eve, Philipps commented that the brand had these children posing in their underwear “like adults”. Nonetheless, the images and gaffe continue to circulate social media with many opting to blur out the images or to comment on the situation without sharing the offending pictures.
Social media users chimed in saying that there was no need to photograph children in their underwear and to attempt to normalise these sorts of images. Others expressed concern with the parents who allowed these images to be taken. Since the release of the advertisement, the hashtag #boycottbenetton has begun picking up steam with many calling for action to be taken against the brand and those behind the images.
The Benetton controversy comes on the heels of Spanish luxury fashion brand Balenciaga’s own controversy surrounding its recent holiday advertisement that featured two children posing with teddy bears wearing what has been described as “BDSM-style bondage gear”, according to media outlets. Other images from the Spring/Summer 2023 collection features young children standing on beds with props that included court documents forma child sexual abuse case. Following intense social outcry, Balenciaga took to Instagram on November 22 to apologise to the public for "messing with children." It added that the campaign was removed from all its platforms.
Next to Balenciaga and Benetton, Gucci has also come under fire recently for a campaign they did with Harry Styles that features Styles posing in a teddy bear t-shirt next to a child’s mattress. Social media users jumped on the images saying that it created very disturbing connections between an adult man and a child’s bed. The question then is why are so many brands getting it so wrong with children in their campaigns? After all, many fashion brands use child models effectively and without controversy.
Balenciaga drops its US$25 million lawsuit against production firm
Kim Kardashian breaks silence on Balenciaga saga, re-evaluates future with brand
Balenciaga files US$25m lawsuit against production firm in controversial children's ad