After releasing a $2,000 designer bag that looked suspiciously like Ikea’s shopping bag, Balenciaga unveiled its latest trash-inspired fashion accessory: the trash can pouch. What sets these luxury trash bags apart from other reputable brands like Glad or Hefty? Rather than plastic, this $1,790 clutch is made of calf leather and has a shiny finish. They also come in a few different colors too. When Balenciaga’s new accessory made its rounds online, everyone on the internet scratched their heads.
“Imagine buying a trash bag because it says balenciaga on it,” one user posted on Twitter. “What will Balenciaga do next? Bottle some air and sell it for $999. They overdo it with these trash bags,” another user tweeted. Confusion and disbelief was the general consensus for the trash can, but others speculated that it was simply a social experiment to see how far people would go to buy designer accessories. But maybe the reason behind it is much simpler than that. Balenciaga does all this on purpose. And these reactions are exactly what they wanted.
It wouldn’t be the first time the fashion house has released bizarre accessories and watched the internet relentlessly ridicule them. Look no further than their sewn-on-a-button-up t-shirt, which sold for $1,290. Or perhaps their high-heeled Croc hybrid, which met with a similar response to their “t-shirt shirt.” And Balenciaga’s tattered and scuffed Paris sneakers, which would go perfectly with their trash bag, are another example of their unusual luxury accessories.
You might think the fashion brand has completely lost it. But it’s intentional. In an interview, Balenciaga director Demna Gvasalia said: “I couldn’t miss the opportunity to create the most expensive trash bag in the world, because who doesn’t love a fashion scandal?” This tells us everything we need to know. Polished with the finest dirt and grime, the Paris sneakers that were mocked online became one of their most popular items and were selling out quickly, all without traditional marketing. Social media has become the perfect tool for their ingenious marketing strategy. The weirder their outings got, the more attention they got, even if the attention was negative. This idea that all advertising is good advertising is also found in other fashion controversies.
Gucci’s Balaclava Jumper, better known as the “Blackface Jumper”, was an infamous moment in the luxury brand’s history that caused intense backlash. In 2017, they unveiled a black wool sweater that partially covered the face and mouth with red lips that looked like blackface. Not only have members of the black community criticized the fashion brand’s actions, but high-profile black celebrities like Spike Lee, Russell Simmons, 50 Cent and TI have also expressed their disappointment. As many called for a boycott of Gucci products and accessories, the brand apologized and removed the wool sweater from its stores and website. Despite the negative publicity, it put the fashion powerhouse front and center. Ask yourself the last time you heard of Gucci or any of its accessories outside of those fleeting moments. This incident, while controversial, shone the spotlight on Gucci for the first time in a long time, and for weeks people talked about the brand. It shows that brands will do just about anything to grab attention.
Maybe you are not convinced. Why would these luxury brands do all this just to get noticed? The real question is, why not? In a social media-centric age, where unusual, bizarre, or controversial items get the most views, comments, and clicks, people will do anything for a few seconds in the spotlight. Enter Bstroy, a streetwear brand that showcased school shooting-themed clothing on a catwalk in New York City. It’s true. School names like Columbine and Sandy Hook were embroidered on sweatshirts riddled with “bullet holes”. And it was all for brand promotion.
Of course, these drew intense backlash, as many people commented on the insensitivity of the drawings to the victims of these tragedies and their families. Although the designer said he intended to raise awareness, people weren’t buying it. Again, would we even have heard of Bstroy if it weren’t for this controversy? Probably not. This most likely drove traffic to their website or social media, and although their comment sections were flooded with growing reviews, they still got the attention they wanted. All publicity is good publicity.
Balenciaga has mastered this ingenious marketing strategy by attracting attention. But maybe there isn’t another person in the world who has mastered the art of grabbing attention like Kanye West. The Grammy-winning musical artist gets people talking without even trying. Take a few of her past fashion shows for her streetwear brand, Yeezy. These shows featured models dressed in mismatched, oversized and ripped clothes, which sparked memes online about her collection. resemblance to the last season of “The Walking Dead”. Even the outfits Kanye has worn and captured by paparazzi have caught his eye, like his weird and mismatched outfits or comically large boots. Knowing Kanye, these fashion choices were probably intentional. He knows how to sell himself and his work. And that’s something we would see in his latest Yeezy release.
Next to a Tweeter which showed his clothes being sold in what appeared to be large black garbage bags, Ye’s latest additions to his Yeezy Gap collection were trending on social media. “That’s how they sell Yeezy GAP,” the tweet read along with a photo of large construction bags filled with clothes. “The seller said that Ye got angry when he saw that they had [clothing] on hangers and that’s how he wanted it. They also won’t help you find your size, you just have to rummage through everything. This was met with confusion and outrage, as some people felt Kanye’s actions were callous and tone-deaf. Others reiterated that it was simply a social experiment, similar to how they described Balenciaga publicity stunts. Kanye defended his actions and appeared on Fox News to say he was an innovator and would not apologize for his creativity. When asked why he wanted his clothes to be sold in large construction bags, Ye simply said that he wanted to challenge conventional fashion norms and thought it would make it easier for people to access.
It would make sense for this situation to be a social experiment, just to see how far people would go to buy designer fashion. After all, this is Kanye West we’re talking about. And it definitely looks like the thing to do for Kanye. However, the rap artist insisted that was how he wanted to do something different. No more no less. And he did his job. Social media and press attention has generated a buzz around Kanye’s latest additions. Most people didn’t even know he would drop anything. But as soon as they circulated on the internet, the clothes started selling fast and sold out. No marketing is involved. Just a tweet and a photo. Social media did the rest. Some people joked that Kanye was the person who took the photo and posted it to Twitter. This is further proof that fashion brands don’t have to rely on a marketing team to promote themselves or their product. They just need it to follow the trend online. Balenciaga also happens to be the brand Kanye works with for his Yeezy Gap collaboration. Chance? I do not think so.
Kanye and Balenciaga are a match made in heaven. Both know how to grab people’s attention and they will most likely continue to experiment with unconventional ideas and weird twists to promote their brands. It may just be an ingenious marketing strategy that has proven to be effective and has only a low cost, but reputation.