The Paris sneaker, an intentionally distressed high-top complete with rips, scuffs, and skid-marks, retails for a cool $1,850 — a tall ask for shoes that look like they've been to hell and back. Much like Balenciaga's other ugly-chic wares (high-heeled Crocs, anyone?), the tattered sneaker is eliciting strong reactions on social media.
Some are joking that the shoe is part of a social experiment engineered to prove that customers will buy anything, no matter how ridiculous, if it's branded with a luxury label. Others have drawn comparisons to the Paris and "Derelicte," the satirical fashion line inspired by New York City's homeless population, featured in Zoolander.
"These aren’t distressed, these are damn near deceased," someone commented on Highsnobiety's Instagram. "Feels like class mockery," another added, touching on the visual parallels between the Paris and worn-out shoes that some are forced to wear out of financial necessity.
Granted, the sneakers featured in Balenciaga's campaign look substantially more worn than the actual limited-edition Paris available online. Still, the style's unfortunate connotations — namely, that customers can try on and take off signifiers of poverty as they please — remain.
Don't think that the controversy surrounding the Paris was simply an oversight on behalf of Balenciaga's team. There's intention behind everything Demna designs, no matter how out-of-the-box and outrageous.
"Everything I do has a reason for it," the designer said in an interview from 2021. "The trashy prom suit or an ‘unreasonably expensive’ market bag did not just accidentally slip into my collection without me super consciously putting it there."
So continue tweeting and commenting — Demna owns the method to his madness. The Paris is here to stay, problematic or not.