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Eusebius on TimesLIVE

PODCAST DEBATE | Is Balenciaga’s ‘distressed’ R30,000 sneaker art or expensive trash?

29 June 2022 - 12:21
Would you pay thousands for Balenciaga's limited-edition distressed sneakers?
Would you pay thousands for Balenciaga's limited-edition distressed sneakers?
Image: Balenciaga

Listen to the debate: 

Eusebius on TimesLIVE hosted an energetic debate about controversial limited-edition sneakers released by Balenciaga.

The “distressed” design, which looks like very dirty, well-worn shoes that only people under conditions of extreme poverty may be reluctantly compelled to wear, retails at about $1,850 (R30,000).

Mikhail Brown, who writes about the politics of fashion, framed a fascinating debate in the Sunday Times recently on whether the dirty and broken sneakers could be considered art. He excavated the biography of the designer to make sense of what the motivations were behind this work.

In this episode of Eusebius on TimesLIVE, gender activist and director of Rise Up Against Gender Based Violence, Vanita Daniels, joined Brown to discuss a number of issues.

Balenciaga's limited-edition distressed sneakers.
Balenciaga's limited-edition distressed sneakers.
Image: Balenciaga

Some questions they explored included: Is the design ugly? Can a sneaker be a work of art? Is functional value an exclusionary criterion in determining what counts as art? Does a motif that draws on the experiences of the poor, or those of oppressed and vulnerable groups such as homeless people and refugees, count as unethical appropriation of their stories? Is it wrong for a work of art to be priced exorbitantly when it draws on struggle narrative? Is fashion necessarily political? And can I dress as I want without engaging in issues of sustainability and ethics?

A diverse range of views emerged and no doubt many more will be added by listeners of Eusebius on TimesLIVE, provoked by Daniels and Brown in this latest episode.

To listen to previous episodes, go here.

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