The Dutch Salvation Army has jumped on the latest chatter surrounding Balenciaga's limited-edition footwear that looks "fully destroyed" to create a PR stunt of its own. Working together with ad agency Cloudfactory, The Dutch Salvation Army embarked on a non-profit project titled "Truly Destroyed" featuring truly lived-in shoes because they have been worn for months, in some cases years, by people living on the streets.
Among the list of shoes featured include destroyed boots, all-purpose shoes, mid sneakers, winter boots, and heels. Along with the shoes are product descriptions that give insight into how the shoes got to their truly destroyed state. For Grace's truly destroyed boots, for example, the pair of footwear was worn out due to exhaustion and 2.5 years of continuous use.
The layout for Truly Destroyed mimics the look and feel of Balenciaga's website and campaign assets, including the destroyed shoes that resemble Balenciaga's US$1,850 pair of sneakers. According to the website, all funds raised will go directly to The Dutch Salvation Army's mission to help people in need rebuild their lives. The project was done in collaboration with fashion photographer Carli Hermès.
Thamar Keuning, marketing and communications at The Salvation Army ReShare, said the fashion world is all about how clothes and shoes look. "The creativity and variety that comes with it can be wonderful, as is high fashion, or Balenciaga for that matter. However, it is also sometimes at odds with what clothing means to most of the people we deal with, and that is purely functional," she said, adding:
The destroyed shoes of a homeless person opposite the high-fashion products of the fashion industry literally and symbolically reflect the inequality in the world.
Cloudfactory's creative director Julio Álvarez explained that the team has a lot of respect for Demna Gvasalia’s vision, the creative director of Balenciaga, and what he is doing with the Balenciaga brand since it often taps into pop culture.
"We understand the fashion world has its codes, and we are not here to judge them. If anything, we are thankful they decided to come up with the limited-edition sneakers described as 'totally destroyed' because that's what sparked our idea: selling used sneakers worn by people living in the streets," he said.
Another creative director César García added that the situation of homeless individuals is neither trendy nor newsworthy. Hence, when a brand such as Balenciaga decides to make extremely worn-out sneakers trendy, the team had to jump at the opportunity. "It's about hijacking the conversation and trying to get a meaningful message across. Not at the expense of Balenciaga, but with thanks and respect to them – building on the shoulders of giants," García explained.
Meanwhile, Hermès said he is not against Balenciaga's destroyed sneakers, adding that the luxury brand did a great job grabbing everyone's attention. "But when I can help the homeless – the number seems to be rising again – with such a wonderful idea, I’m in. I like the story behind it. For me, this is not only about photography but also about art direction. The idea is strong and therefore I could develop the idea further in photography," he said.
Hermès added that it would be nice if brands can make consumers and people in the fashion industry aware of the homeless situation through this non-profit project, and hopefully have them spend less on material items and donate to The Salvation Army instead.
Earlier this month, Balenciaga caused Internet outrage for its US$1,850 destroyed Paris sneaker, with some netizens questioning if the product launch was simply a "social experiment" while others labelled the sneakers as "poverty-chic pieces” where “unchecked capitalism is mind-boggling”. However, one Twiter user did point out that it was simply a marketing strategy to create buzz in the market and produce content to promote the actual product.
Balenciaga causes viral Internet outrage for selling US$1,850 destroyed shoes