Currently ranked as the world’s number one most powerful slash influential brand in the world, it seems that Balenciaga in the hands of Georgian designer Demna cannot put a foot wrong. Although the recent release of limited edition “fully destroyed” sneaker for the cute cost of $2250 has some scratching their heads and wondering if they’ve been had.
Short answer: yes. Longer answer: that’s also the point. But more on that later.
The new drop from the Paris-based Spanish luxury brand, dubbed The Paris Sneaker, was revealed earlier this week. Available in both low and high top cuts, the shoe is essentially a classic canvas not too dissimilar to a Chuck Taylor. Available in three colours – cream, red, black – it also comes in various states of distress. The version that seems to be ruffling feathers has been defined as fully destroyed. While not as entirely thrashed as the ones used in the campaign, the canvas is shown to be deliberately cut in places and the vulcanised sole have taken a good stroll through the dirt. All in all – not as destroyed as people are making them out to be.
The concept of distressed garments in fashion isn’t new. Pre-torn denim has become a staple for most wardrobes while Gucci, Golden Goose and ACNE have all released their own interpretations of worn in footwear. It begs the question why, then, has the Paris Sneaker – which isn’t as destroyed as we’ve been led to believe – has caused such a ripple of discontent.
Of course, the price tag might have something to do with it. But it also might have something to do with the preconceived notions of what luxury items are meant to look like and communicate.
Since his appointment at Balenciaga, Demna’s vision for the brand has been to elevate not just the clothing but our perceptions of clothing. For the Met Gala, he put Kim Kardashian in a black T-Shirt – a familiar daily staple suddenly transformed into a red carpet status gown. Helped along with a head-to-toe body stocking, yes, but the fact remains the world’s most famous figure wore a T-Shirt to the Met.
Through each successive collection, familiar items taken for granted are transformed through tailoring or fabrication into an elevated version of itself. Rather than upholding some pre-existing hierarchy, Demna flips the notion of luxury fashion on its head.
It’s also a game that Demna has been playing with the consumer since his days at Vetements. What if you create a garment – a brand – that offered clothing so fundamentally familiar it transcends even irony yet priced it at the same level as bespoke garments. Followers of fashion would never admit they don’t get the joke, so the sale is predestined to happen. In a Möbius Strip-like twist, it puts the onus – and messaging – back on the consumer. You either get it or you don’t. You get them, or you don’t.
Thus the Balenciaga Paris Sneaker.
Balenciaga has always been a brand that questioned the purpose, and the construction, of fashion and the pre-destruction of a shoe prior to a wearer being able to ingrain their own history into them is the sort of ironic presentation that is within the brand’s DNA. But it also taps into a more current phenomenon – limited edition items designed less for ownership and more for resell. This is where fashion items intersect with, and take on, the form and purpose of art. The Balenciaga Paris Sneaker fully destroyed is essentially a piece of hype art – a tangible NFT if you will – designed to be preserved.