The price of ugly fashion
Fashion has gone ugly. And none more so than at Balenciaga. It’s colossal Triple S trainers, released in 2017, are an orthopaedic mishmash of three soles, so bulky they could be mistaken for shoe tractors. Similarly, its off-kilter silhouettes, normcore exaggerated proportions and big dose of East European street looks define a new era of luxury at the French fashion house, if indeed the zeitgeist.
However ‘ugly’ or easily critiqued, the 615 pound (820 USD) trainers were an instant retail success around the world, igniting countless of copies and a surge of chunky trainers appearing in range plans and on the high street.
Its widespread success was obvious when last week I was visiting Amsterdam and mistook a passerby for a courier, when in fact it was a Fashionisto: clad in brown wide-legged trousers, a DHL logo t-shirt and clunky white Triple S trainers, artfully accessorized with a fanny pack. The look was unmistakably Demna Gvasalia, the creative force behind Vetements and Balenciaga, two of most fascinating and divisive brands of the past few seasons.
Ugly fashion is expensive
Ugly fashion comes with a price tag, however, and here is where the division lies. Last week Balenciaga debuted a t-shirt slash shirt, retailing for a whopping 1,086 pounds (1,290 USD). That’s a salary for some folks, none of whom will want to be dressed wearing a t-shirt with a button-up shirt attached to the rib of the neck. The value versus design ratio is stretched beyond proportion for the customer, not making it an investment for the sake of quality or craft, but instead the trigger to purchase a trend that will not date beyond a season. Obviously there is little tailoring skill required to attach a shirt to a t-shirt to define the cost. This is a garment aimed at fashionistos who want to spend for the recognition of wearing an Instagrammable branded look.
Last year Balenciaga copied the infamous Ikea shopper bag, which made its first outing at fashion week and cost 1,600 pounds (2,145 USD). While many of Gvasalia’s designs are derivative (think slogans and borrowed graphics) Ikea at the time said: “We are highly flattered. Nothing beats the versatility of a great big blue bag.”
Men’s fashion month is well under way, and we’ll be keeping a look out on the streets of the fashion capitals to see if the t-shirt/shirt look makes any appearances.
Photo credit: Balenciaga website