With his pre-destroyed sneakers, Balenciaga instrumentalize our outrage?

As usual, the French luxury house Balenciaga causes another scandal. After Tati bags and jogging tracks are tucked into kiffeur-style socks, artistic director Demna Gvasalia releases pre-destroyed sneakers, christened Paris. Could the excited outrage serve his marketing?

Demna Gvasalia is used to shocking. In 2015, with his clothing label, he presented his autumn-winter collection 2015-2016 in the Depot, a gay sex club in the capital, which attracted a lot of half-offended, half-excited media attention. Few people remember the clothes of the show, but everyone remembers his name and his brand, so much so that François-Henri Pinault (CEO of the luxury group Kering) appoints him as head of the illustrious house Balenciaga, queen of architectural constructions.

From there, Demna Gvasalia moves on to outrageous pieces, making these creations hyper-commentary, translating almost mechanically into commercial successes. After the stiletto Crocs, the minimalist five-toed shoes, the large Tati shopping bags and the joggers tucked into the socks, Balenciaga once again glorifies another sartorial detail of the most popular social classes: the real worn sneakers

Balenciaga’s new pre-destroyed sneakers, from 395€ to 1450€

Count on €495 for the mule versions, €495 for the high tops and €1450 for the pre-destroyed high tops of Balenciaga’s Paris sneakers. © Screenshot of the eshop.

In reality, the French luxury house just released a new pair of sneakers called Paris† They look like Converse and come in different shapes: in mules open on the heels for €395, or high, for €495. In both cases they show some signs of use, as if they had been roughly cut with scissors on the low models, or rubbed against walls at the back of the high models.

But that’s another one version that has been shaking up social networks since the official release on May 9, 2022 of Balenciaga’s Paris sneakers by Demna Gvasalia† Because the advertising campaign presents many more worn variants, full of holes and dirt. Officially the brand explains that this ad wants to show that these new sneakers are made to last a lifetime, even when they are worn out

And to better highlight the atmosphere (the goal of a successful advertising campaign), the house even goes so far as to sell it 100 extremely worn pieces, for €1450 the pair of sneakers is pre-soiled, pre-drilled, pre-cut and therefore ready to be imported (but Demna Gvasalia would certainly answer you that it is a tribute to Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades, that they should be seen as an artistic gesture that questions our society, and not as vulgar ready-made sneakers).

A provocative advertising campaign, already viral thanks to the outrage of the networks

It was therefore enough for Internet users to protest and re-share the images of the most destroyed and dirty sneakers, shocked by their price. Some posts look like some form of showy virtue (aka virtue signaling† Others enjoy themselves and read in the gesture of Demna Gvasalia in Balenciaga a form of social experimentation to see how much luxury customers are willing to pay to dress up as poor people.

Disguising yourself as a poor person by buying several hundred euros for worn clothes and sneakers, that is exactly what the Abbé Pierre foundation stands for. who also responded on Twitter:

A bad buzz is of course a buzz, but at what cost?

Did he want to cause outrage and be part of Balenciaga’s marketing strategy with this new campaign for these worn-out Paris sneakers? We can ask ourselves when we see the virality of these images that are massively shared on Twitter, Instagram and many media, surprised or offended.

A few hours of trending topic on the social network with the blue bird just bought by Elon Musk, the French luxury house would not be the first to instrumentalize the outrage that promotes virality on social networks† Because generating engagement and conversations is literally part of the key performance indicators (so-called KPIs, in English: Key Performance Indicator) of an advertising campaign.

That so many people and the media, even bad, talk about the latest Balenciaga sneakers mechanically improves the SEO of the eshop of the brand – already the most mentioned and searched online in the last quarter of 2021 – in addition to reminding people who appreciate it that it exists and that it offers new products. It is a possible technique to growth hacking, as marketers say, is growth hacking. Maybe one day, The internet will understand that re-sharing a brand’s latest ad to be outraged by it serves more than it serves† But not now, we want likes and RTs.


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Headline photo credit: Balenciaga.

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