In the past few months, luxury fashion brand Balenciaga has been heavily criticized for some seriously questionable ad campaigns. First, they chose to publish a campaign that featured toddlers standing on beds holding bags that looked like teddy bears wearing bondage gear. Next, they released an ad that featured a handbag sitting atop a stack of papers. However, keen-eyed internet sleuths noticed that one of the pieces of paper was a U.S. Supreme Court document referencing a child pornography case. These extremely strange ad campaigns led to a ton of backlash with people questioning whether the brand was intentionally sexualizing children.
Additionally, the brand has largely been “canceled” in popular media, causing celebrities to renounce the brand and remove social media posts of themselves wearing Balenciaga gear. Most notably, billionaire fashion icon Kim Kardashian said that she was “reevaluating” her relationship with the fashion house. And, all of this begs the question: why would Balenciaga release such a weird and offensive series of ads?
Well, in case you’ve been out of the loop, “weird” is kind of Balenciaga’s thing. The company has positioned itself in the limelight of the fashion world by creating strange and daring pieces that make consumers reconsider what fashion really is. Many of their releases lean more toward modern art than traditional fashion and, much like modern art, many of their releases don’t make a ton of sense.
So, let’s go back through the years (before this dark age of Balenciaga) and take a look at some of the weirdest products that the disgraced brand has ever released.
1. Lay’s Bag
Even if you don’t follow the world of fashion, you’ve probably heard about the Balenicaga Lay’s Bag, which was released as a part of the Spring/Summer 2023 collection for Paris Fashion Week. This accessory is a leather handbag printed to look exactly like a Lay’s potato chip bag. It comes in three flavors: original, spicy, and salt and vinegar. And the interior of the bag has a metallic lining to replicate the interior of a real potato chip bag.
The one thing that this bag doesn’t have in common with a real bag of potato chips is the price tag. While a bag of Lay’s might cost you a dollar or two at your local 7-Eleven, the Balenciaga Lay’s Bag is selling for a whopping $1,800.
2. Chevalier Boots
In case you aren’t caught up on your medieval terminology, the word “chevalier” refers either to “a chivalrous man” or “a member of certain orders of knighthood”. And, the name of these boots is very descriptive in this case. As part of their Fall 2021 collection, Balenciaga literally released a pair of medieval knights’ boots made from plate metal that are combat-ready.
These boots feature pointed toes that could definitely kill someone. The rest of the boot, which goes up the entire leg, looks like it could take a few sword-slashes in stride. These boots would definitely not be allowed on an airplane. Luckily, as part of the same collection, Balenciaga also released a more practical, low-top shoe made from laser-cut leather and covered in metallic paint to give it the appearance of plate armor without setting off a metal detector.
3. Ikea Bag
Billed as the “Arena Extra Large Shopper Tote”, this product blew up on the internet because it so closely resembled the 99-cent bags offered to shoppers at Ikea stores. These so-called “Ikea knock-offs” led to massive outrage throughout cyberspace with many criticizing Balenciaga’s lead designer Demna for taking advantage of consumers. In fact, The New York Post even released an article titled “Balenciaga’s Ikea-Bag Knockoff Is Even Dumber Than It Looks”.
The bag was released in 2017 with a price tag of $2,145, which led to even more criticism. However, management from Ikea didn’t seem to mind the publicity whatsoever. In fact, a spokesperson from the furniture store said, “We are deeply flattered that the Balenciaga tote bag resembles the Ikea iconic sustainable blue bag for 99 cents. Nothing beats the versatility of a great big blue bag.” This may have been a dark moment for Balenciaga, but it was Ikea’s moment in the spotlight.
4. Crocs High Heels
Balenciaga has done quite a few collaborations with rubber shoe brand Crocs over the years, but the strangest item to have come out of these collaborations is definitely the Crocs high heels known as the Madame Mules. Despite how ugly these shoes might be, the overpowering brand power of both Balenciaga and Crocs caused these shoes to sell out just a few hours after their release.
Crocs, which started out making stay-at-home rubber slip-ons made to wear while washing your car, now has major celebrity endorsements and is a legitimate part of the high fashion scene (partially thanks to Balenciaga). These shoes sold for nearly $700 when they were first released adn they’re doubtlessly even more expensive on the secondary market.
5. Point Toe Clogs
Throughout their history, wooden clogs have been worn by peasants in western Europe as they toiled in the agricultural fields. These same clog-wearing folks probably climb to mountaintops to yodel from village to village. Today, however, wooden clogs are being sold by Balenciaga and purchased by American influencers for prices north of $1,000.
These shoes made their debut as part of the the Summer 2023 “The Mud Show” collection show. The show was held in a warehouse covered in mud. There was mud smeared all over the walls, the runway was completely covered in mud, and there was even a 20-foot-deep muddy hole. The whole thing was incredibly odd and the perfect setting for a shoe like the Balenciaga Point Toe Clogs.
6. Defender Extreme Tire Tread Sneakers
Another strange footwear concept from the mind of Balenciaga’s Demna is the Defender Extreme Tire Tread Sneakers, which feature heavy-duty tire tread on the soles. These sneakers feature oversized soles, something that has become a staple of Balenciaga shoes. And, despite having Defender tires for soles, these shoes actually look fairly unstable and hard to walk in. No one said looking good was easy.
These shoes were released in 2022 and sold for $1,250. They also come in several different colors, including red and off-white. While putting tires on the bottom of shoes is a pretty far-fetched idea, these shoes actually give off a more normal appearance than any other product on this list.
7. Coffee Cup
In case you weren’t sure whether or not Balenciaga was making a mockery of your finances, you should know that they released a $125 coffee cup that comes in white or black porcelain. These cups also come with the names of major cities underneath the Balenciaga brand name, so you can have an overpriced coffee cup that’s even more relevant to your geographic location.
In a way, these coffee cups are good for the world. Hopefully, influencers and rich people will ask Starbucks employees to put their lattes in their Balenciaga cups, thus saving a plastic cup that’s going to end up in the trash. Bravo, Balenciaga.