Balenciaga’s trashed trainers are dividing opinion — and tapping into fashion history

 Balenciaga’s trashed trainers are dividing opinion — and tapping into fashion history


Fashion house Balenciaga has released a new pair of trainers. In itself it’s not unusual – the coaches are big business at Balenciaga, forming a large chunk of a brand whose turnover is now estimated at $ 2.3bn. But this new style – dubbed “Paris” – has sparked outrage across the internet, as do many things today.

The rage isn’t captured in the price of the trainers (which range from £ 350 to £ 1,290), nor lack (a fairly wide selection is available), but in a limited edition version adapted to look lost . , cut, stained and graffitied by artist Léopold Duchemin, and shown in images to enhance the shoe. “[He] used a lot of knives, scissors, punch paper for texture, ”said the Balenciaga representative. “For the color, he uses tea, wood filler, shoe polish and floor polish.” The result was called “Full Destroyed”, and while the other “Paris” sneakers in the range were slowly being torn apart, 100 limited edition pairs were very disappointing.

“Part of me is totally offended,” wrote Livia Firth, founder of the Green Carpet Challenge and champion for sustainability, under a photo of the shoe on her Instagram feed. “Buying something that breaks down doesn’t hurt people I know who wear such shoes because they can’t afford even basic meals. He followed it up with a question:” On the other hand , what does Balenciaga want to say? ” His comments reflect a broader discourse around these sneakers. “I can see it in the trash free,” read one. “Controversy. The purpose is to spark a discussion.” A press release release from Balenciaga suggests that the bashed up shoes are intended to look like they will be worn for a lifetime.

But, what’s new? Fashion has been flirting with destruction for decades – perhaps, even centuries – with the most obvious example being punk. An early version was the slash, the rich decoration of court costumes of the 15th and 16th centuries inspired in part by cut-out war clothes. And in the same vein high fashion has always, controversially, imitated the clothing of the poor. Marie Antoinette famously dressed as a milkmaid in gauzy white muslin in the twilight of the Ancien Regime, arousing anger from the poor population of France. In the 20th century, Gabrielle Chanel’s simple jersey dress-the material taken from fishermen’s uniforms-was ridiculed as “poverty de luxe” by rival Paul Poiret. But Chanel’s uplifting simplicity is a bit different than the depressing dresses that appear to be worn.

There are some early examples of this spirit – in 1938 Elsa Schiaparelli printed a dress with torn flesh, for example, and put a veil to fit the flaps of the fabric into cracks in the material. And in the 1970s, influenced by punk, Zandra Rhodes created dresses that were cut and held with beaded safety-pins. But it wasn’t until the 1980s that high fashion really decided to break down. Probably because the economy is booming, and because fashion has always reacted against the status quo. Punk is a subculture: in the late 1970s high fashion, mostly, money and wealthy, promoted by Yves Saint Laurent’s 1976 “Ballet Russes” haute couture collection, full of furs, rich satin and brocade.

Balenciaga Paris High Top trainers in white full broken cotton and rubber, £ 1,290, balenciaga.com

A challenge came from Rei Kawakubo who, in 1982 under his label Comme des Garçons, presented a Paris collection of black knitwear marked with holes. He called sweaters “lace” – because what is lace, other than a fabric with holes, actually – and it is done, he says, by removing the screws on knitting machines that manufactures the pieces, so that the machinery can no longer make them. work. They cause chaos: critics call them “post atomic” or “Hiroshima chic”. Both names are used for Vivienne Westwood’s work. The appearance of “Bag Lady” is a descriptor of choice.

It influenced later generations to cut their designer jeans and, of course, there was Martin Margiela, who created sweaters made from old socks as well as dresses with torn seams and unfolded seams. sidsid. This was what the trend called “deconstruction” but was called, at the time, “le mode destroy”. Later, it dovetail in a grunge fashion trend. Fashion hasn’t stopped since: Alber Elbaz has always allowed unfinished poetic edges to be translated into his work for Lanvin; Karl Lagerfeld created a Chanel collection in 2011 with jackets that seemed to be eaten by moths; Rick Owens ’signature is a grizzled leather jacket that looks boiled, and knits pre-pilled. Some methods of grinding are more controversial – sandblasting, which is used to quickly and economically disrupt mass -market denim, is banned in many countries because of the risk of garment workers to silicosis.

Rick Owens Womenswear SS/22 at Paris Fashion Week © Getty Images

John Galliano’s controversial Christian Dior collection in 2000, inspired by the homeless in Paris © AFP via Getty Images

Destruction is one thing – but poverty is another. There is a jump between a torn hem and, seemingly ready, sticking to clothes worn by the homeless or the poor. In January 2000, John Galliano presented a haute couture collection for the Christian Dior house that sparked protests. His inspiration was, he says, the homeless people he saw on his morning jog along the Seine, as well as the “rag balls” of the 19th century, when the high society wore torn clothes especially made by the couturiers of the time. Galliano’s collection includes chiffon gowns with hand -ripped hem, and belts hanging in detritus including taxidermied rats and whiskey bottles.

Homelessness rights groups protested outside Dior’s headquarters-called riot police-and after protests and expressions of creative freedom, the house was forced to apologize. It was one of the first examples of the cancellation culture we know today. That collection, however, is still filtered into the next Dior Autumn/Winter 2000 ready-to-wear collection: a print taken from newspaper articles was worn by Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex And The City.

It’s also, frankly, a trend. As in the 1980s, the trend has generally shifted to acts of blasphemy in search of cool – walking down any busy street and the kind of torn jeans that were finally seen by the likes of Bros. and New Kids On The Block seems to have risen, with chewed-up “vintage” T-shirts and beaten-up sneakers. The Balenciaga coaches are just the worst example of a general move-so it’s interesting that they provoked such severe reactions. How much is sad, in fact, extremely sad? Basin lami ra kana.

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