Luxury fashion brand Balenciaga has unveiled a new campaign to promote a series of exorbitantly priced ripped-up sneakers, and the internet has plenty to say.

Images — taken by photographer Leopold Duchemin for the brand — of the severely tattered sneakers have gone viral following the launch of the couture brand’s new Paris shoe on Monday. And his appearance has caused outrage on the Internet.

But the photos of the smashed sneakers circulating on social media don’t exactly tell the whole story. Although they have sparked a lot of controversy, the images are actually exaggerated and limited versions of the sneakers that Balenciaga is selling.

The details of the new tennis model

According to the fashion brand, only 100 pairs of “extra destroyed” sneakers will be available for $1,850. Meanwhile, the non-limited edition, and less shattered versions, are selling on Balenciaga’s website for $495 and $625, depending on the specific style.

In a press release, the Paris-based brand said the campaign photos show the shoes “extremely worn, marked and dirty”.

The brand claims that the still life portraits “suggest that Paris sneakers are meant to be worn for a lifetime,” a point that feels especially relevant amid growing conversations about the fast fashion industry and the impact of excessive consumption on the planet.

It is not the first controversy of Balenciaga

Demna is known for his disruptive style and it is not the first time that his designs have been received with bewildered reactions, as was the case with the launch of the Paris sneakers.

In 2017, Balenciaga released a $2,145 bag that was derided for its similarities to Ikea’s “Frakta” bag. At that time, the original Ikea bag could be bought for 99 cents.

Balenciaga describes the sneaker as a “tweaked classic design,” which is finished with “distressed canvas and rough edges, giving it a pre-worn look.”

Online reactions to the Paris sneakers have been mixed.

SoleSavy, a website that describes itself as a community for “true sneaker addicts,” wondered if the “old sneaker trend” had gone too far.

Tora Northman, news editor for the publication Highsnobiety , said the brand had “taken it to the next level”, adding that Balenciaga “always creates controversial items that spark conversation”.

Reactions in favor

But not everyone thinks sneakers deserve to be made fun of.

GQ France’s head of editorial content, Pam Boy, said in a comment on Instagram that the product’s message is clear: “Buy and keep forever.” Demna (Balenciaga’s creative director) will get people who can afford luxury items to buy a pair of ‘pre-worn’ looking sneakers for €1,450. He is turning the essence of luxury upside down.”

It seems the jury is out on whether this latest marketing move is worthy of praise or derision. In any case, Demna and Balenciaga have once again made waves, undoubtedly attracting many to a brand that seems increasingly comfortable with controversy.

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