The Dutch Salvation Army reveals its own non-profit project, “Truly Destroyed”. This project marks an attempt to raise awareness of poverty inequality. The project directly confronts Balenciaga’s controversial Paris sneaker campaign “Fully-Destroyed”. In it, pre-distressed, acid dipped, paint splashed looking sneakers and mules retail for up to a shocking $2,500 AUD.

Credit: Highsnobiety

The Salvation Army Response

The collection of shoes previously belong to people living on the streets. They are displayed to mimick the Balenciaga site. Ranging from sneakers, heels and boots, all 8 models come with a description of their owner.

Credit: ThriftCon

Product descriptions including details like “detached sole” and “blood stained” channeling a Balenciaga-esque aesthetic.

Creative directors Julio Álvarez and César García state that the sneakers are “not treated to look destroyed, but truly destroyed, due to their tough living conditions.” Dedicated to authentically displaying the stories of plight sown by poverty for months and years.

With a price tag of $2.17 AUD, profits go directly to The Dutch Salvation Army’s mission to help those in need.

A Disturbingly Classist Trend

Credit: MEAWW

Balenciaga, a brand with many of its products born from an initial shock factor, is no stranger to controversy. The brand’s Paris sneakers exist to shock people, and that they have. Most importantly, it prompts the suggestion of class consciousness. Whilst Balenciaga explains the sneakers “are meant to be worn for a lifetime”, the release was met with negative criticism. Anger-fuelled public rhetoric circulated the notions of “homeless-chic” online. One Reddit user writes, “Balenciaga’s new “distressed” range of shoes starting at $625 is basically the rich cosplaying the poor.”

There was much disapproval at the brand’s exploitation and appropriation of the disadvantaged in an effort of aesthetics. Thus, the contradictory paradox of ‘homeless-chic’ offers occasion to consider intersections of class, identity, and representation in the fashion industry. Why is poverty becoming an aesthetic for wealthy people?

Hobo Chic?

With many deeming the distressed trend as ‘classist’, the Dutch Salvation Army further affirms this testament.

“The destroyed shoes of a homeless person opposite the high-fashion products of this fashion industry literally and symbolically reflect the inequality in the world.” Says Thamar Keuning, marketing officer at Salvation Army.

John Galliano’s introduction of ‘boho-meets-hobo’ chic in Dior’s 2000’s Spring-Summer haute couture collection brought us the controversial ‘poverty chic’ aesthetic. And it is not easy to forget or leave behind.

With the release of Balenciaga’s Paris sneakers, many people in 2022 are still scratching their heads. This all begs the question: if and when the rich will ever stop playing poor?

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