I struggled for ages to think of a good blog over the holidays and still couldn’t think of one, until Twitter was exposed to the most questionable fashion release of this decade.
Luxury French fashion house Balenciaga has been one of the biggest labels in the world for decades now and has never been afraid to push the boundaries of conventional clothing. They are the third biggest fashion brand, according to the Lyst Index, which ranked them below Gucci in first and Virgil Abloh’s Off-White in second.
But, their latest efforts as part of their Spring/Summer 2020 collection, they revealed a pair of trainers which diverts from their usual oversized, chunky aesthetic. The Balenciaga Zen trainers are a comparatively smaller and minimalistic shoe compared to previous Triple S collection. If someone walked past you wearing them, you wouldn’t look twice, and you certainly wouldn’t notice that they have a £425 price tag.
Since the release, they have been mocked mercilessly on Twitter by users who were quick to point out their resemblance to lost property trainers. But the jokes only seem to be coming from British Twitter, there has been very little American response to the reveal of the trainers. Most fashion outlets have merely reported their unveiling, although some streetwear outlets, like Highsnobiety and Hypebeast, have acknowledged the mockery.
In previous years, Balenciaga has benefitted from being worn by celebrities and influencers alike, and profiting off their exposure for the brand. In 2018, Michelle Obama wore a pair of golden Balenciaga boots, with a hefty price tag of $3,900. Despite her appearance in these boots being at a stop in New York on her book tour, they were trending on Twitter and sold out in a matter of days.
Are shock tactics going to be the way forward for fashion houses? There was a small furore after the rollout of the Off-White and Nike collaboration for the Air Force 1. What was the difference? It said “AIR” on the side and it had a zip tie attached. This power play from Off-White allowed them to reach a further audience thanks to the coverage it was getting on social media, as well as selling enormous amounts of the trainers. Now, they are reselling for hundreds, if not thousands on StockX, a reselling website for trainers and other streetwear.
However, despite being one of the few things trending on Twitter on Friday, only a few sizes are sold out on Balenciaga’s website. Across the four pairs (men & women and black & white) that are advertised on their website, only four sizes are sold out. That being said, I am under no illusion that these haven’t been a massive success for the company. They got massive exposure on Twitter and they managed to sell a lot of shoes which you could buy for £25 from Sports Direct, for £425.
Ironically, the Lonsdale trainers on Sports Direct’s website have been selling very well, with only a few sizes left of the white and black colourway, so if you want a pair, be quick! Lonsdale’s online engagement has also seen an increase in the UK in recent days as seen by this Google Trends graph. The fact that the number of searches for ‘Lonsdale trainers’ outmatched the number of searches for ‘Balenciaga Zen’ is incredible.
Even though they do look like a pair of very stylish Lonsdale Benn trainers, they are still going to have a positive impact for Balenciaga as a brand. The Zen trainers weren’t exhibited at their September 2019 runway event in Paris where they showed off their Spring/Summer 2020 collection. Perhaps this was on purpose, maybe Demna Gvasalia - their creative director – has bigger plans for the Zen trainers and didn’t want them to be overshadowed by the occasion.
Who knows what this will become in the next rollout for Balenciaga, or even Lonsdale? Maybe they will creep into the streetwear game and become the next Palace or Supreme, or maybe they will just remain as a boxing brand. If this had any minor negative affect on Balenciaga's status as a well-regarded fashion house, I'm sure that will soon subside once the rest of their pieces are released from this collection.
Also, you can’t hate on Balenciaga too much, they do make great looking clothes, trainers and accessories. And they’re releasing t-shirts and hoodies featuring a vulnerable koala, with 100% of the proceeds going to support the fight against Australia’s bushfire crisis, and you cannot fault that.
If this article inspired you in any way, the links to both pairs of shoes are here. Choose wisely.
Balenciaga Zen (White/Black) - £425 - https://www.balenciaga.com/gb/zen-shoes_cod11838354cb.html#/gb/all/zen-shoes
Lonsdale Benn (White/Black) - £19 - https://www.sportsdirect.com/lonsdale-benn-mens-trainers-115364#colcode=11536430