Balenciaga Brings Back Fashion’s Ugliest Shoe, The Croc

Is everyone’s favourite shoe to hate really just fashion kryptonite or is it, in fact, potentially stylish?

On Sunday morning in Paris, Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia shocked the style set out of their fashion month stupor by sending Crocs down the runway. The designer’s tenth collection exuded quirky exceptionalism in eccentric, garish colours and oversized shapes. Two-inch spiked stilettos, sunset-printed trousers and handbags with their own little rain ponchos took the runway. But it was the towering platform crocs in bubblegum pink and canary yellow that proved most divisive.

Embracing the aesthetically challenged – and perhaps most polarising – shoe is a marker of Gvasalia’s fascination with the repellent; the designer relishes in embracing the oddball. Elevating the aesthetically maligned brand of Crocs is an open-armed welcome to the misbegotten, to the banal and to the outsider. But is attempting to highlight the most maligned products really moving the cultural conversation forward? Is it eccentric individuality igniting a helpful debate surrounding fashion’s purpose? Or is it just giving people permission to be lazy?

Explaining his own rationale for reintroducing Crocs to high-fashion’s international stage, Demna Gvasalia said he was drawn to the shape because the shoe is created from a singular rubber mould. ‘It’s a very innovative shoe.’ Gvasalia told UK Vogue.

‘It’s light, it’s a one-piece foam mould and to me these kind of techniques and working with these kind of materials is very Balenciaga […] In the future you will be able to 3-D print them at home because they are all one piece.’

Giving the Balenciaga designer his due, the thought process behind the creation of the shoe is very forward-thinking. Perhaps there’s more to the reintroduction of Crocs than merely the shock factor of taking seemingly defunct fashion labels and giving them high-fashion status. Gvasalia is talking about people being able to produce their own footwear – is this the fashion of the future?

Crocs (the brand) are certainly in favour of the collaboration. Michelle Poole, their senior vice president of global product and marketing, spoke to Footwear News about the brand’s collaboration:

‘When Balenciaga approached us, we were intrigued by the opportunity to push the boundaries of our design and moulding capabilities to see what we could create together.’

Balenciaga’s version of the platform shoes – labelled ‘The Foam’ – isn’t the first time Crocs have appeared on an international stage. Just last year, Christopher Kane sent his version of the infamous rubber clog clomping down the runway for his spring/summer collection. The designer’s interpretation saw marble prints and rock-crystal attachments, and have since been lined in mink for FW17.

Photo Credit: Pandora Sykes for Man Repeller

For all intents and purposes, it makes sense for a luxury fashion house to partner with a billion-dollar global, everyday brand. Crocs have the money, and labels such as Balenciaga and Christopher Kane have the audience and the ‘cool-factor.’ Kane’s surprise collaboration with the brand even prompted US Vogue to include the shoe in its list of trends to watch in 2017.

Speaking to UK Vogue at the time of Kane’s collaboration with the shoe brand, the designer said:

‘Crocs are arguably the most comfortable shoe, I love that they are slightly awkward and might be perceived by some as ‘ugly’. They have a very naïve and childlike shape which I especially like when they look extra clunky on the foot.’

That ‘ugly’ has become a badge of honour, worn in an ironic way, will – like every other fashion fad – eventually be relegated to the fashion bin of ‘once was.’ Everyday brands on the high-fashion stage and the future of production, however, will be trending from here to eternity.

Let the footwear we longed to forget lead the way to fashion’s future.