Balenciaga was recently crowned the fastest-growing brand by its parent company Kering—the luxury conglomerate that owns a stable of legendary high fashion labels like Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, and Alexander McQueen. Balenciaga can also probably be credited for popularizing “ugly fashion,” the trendy style of dressing that isn’t about looking cool or conventionally attractive.
As Quartz put it, “ugly dressing” is all about confidence: you don’t need sky-high stilettos to be hot, just throw on a pair of Crocs or any of the other ugly fashion trends that are “in” right now. Some fashion insiders and designers like Ralph Rucci think Balenciaga’s influential aesthetic is “garbage,” but contrary to that, many shoppers are happy to buy their $1,400 fanny packs and other pricey designer duds.
Enter the $1,290 “t-shirt shirt”—Balenciaga’s latest attempt at selling ugliness to the masses. The brand’s latest offering has caused about as much confusion as “the [gold or yellow?] dress” did in 2016.
“Is it a shirt? Is it a t-shirt?
#Balenciaga have you covered for smart/casual. Only £935,” one user tweeted about the button-up shirt and t-shirt hybrid.
After taxes, plus any shipping and handling, the casual-meets-formal top will set you back about the same amount that I pay to rent my Williamsburg apartment.
However, apparently, it’s a two-for-one deal: the product description says that the shirt has “two wearing options.” Those being to “wear the short sleeves shirt with front drape effect or the long sleeves shirt with back drape effect.” Perhaps even more offensive is the $1,490 “double shirt,” which is designed the same way, just with two button up shirts.
I wasn’t sold. And nor were the Internet critics who couldn’t believe what they were seeing.
“I thought this Balenciaga shirt was a joke. …Its real and it’s $1,290,” Troy Osinoff tweeted.
One writer noted the political influences of this exorbitant piece on Twitter, referring to it as, “Balenciaga’s Steve Bannon collection.”
Controversy shrouds the brand online, but the New York Times’ chief fashion critic Vanessa Friedman argues that the brand is still doing gangbusters because of its ability to push social media’s buttons.
It just goes to show that in modern times, a spectacle can be more useful than actual substance for fashion brands looking to cut through the noise.