Balenciaga’s Crocs: The How, The Why And The What

Twitter was greatly disturbed a few days ago by Balenciaga’s interesting decision to include everyone’s favourite foam clogs, Crocs, in its Spring/Summer 2018 Ready-To-Wear collection. They weren’t just any old Crocs, however, oh no- they were platform Crocs, in psychedelic colours! Some Twitter users were very considerate and marked the images they tweeted of the shoes as containing sensitive material.

These nightmarish conceptions were dreamed up by Demna Gvasalia, Balenciaga’s creative director. This is the same guy who sent big puffer jackets down the Balenciaga runway last year, the kind of suffocating, clumsy coat your mom might have forced you into when you were ten and it was cold outside. It set into motion a massive trend that trickled down from the fashion world, took over the likes of Zara and Topshop and wrangled its way into the wardrobes of many a teenage girl. That, my friends, was an example of ugliness done right- it was thoughtful, intelligent and informed. And when it hits Penneys, you know you have major mass-market power. But with great power comes great responsibility (please recognise this, Demna).

The Crocs were completely incongruous with the rest of the collection’s muted, wintery florals, wonderfully weird layering and gauzy tissue-like fabrics in wacky newspaper and dollar-bill prints. He just ruined the entire edgy vibe he had been masterfully cultivating at Balenciaga over the last few seasons. Awkward. He even saved them for the final few looks of the show, which are the looks the designer thinks of as the most dazzling ones of the collection. Extra awkward.

London cool kid (designer) Christopher Kane put out his own marbled iteration of the rubbery monstrosity about a year ago, with crystal and gem “shoe charms,” which, according to Croc terminology are called “jibbitz” (oh god, I am distraught that that is a term I now know, and I apologise for introducing it into your vocabulary). They are considerably less obnoxious-looking than Balenciaga’s foray into the foggy world of Croc-design, almost an exploration into if something so unattractive can be made beautiful. And he almost succeeded, which is no mean feat. But we have to ask ourselves; why are multiple big designers gravitating towards Crocs?

The problem with these shoes is not how visually unpleasant they are. Ugliness can be good, even great. Over the last few years, ugliness has become celebrated in the fashion industry. Balenciaga’s Triple S Trainers, for example, are classified as ugly, but it is a tasteful ugly. They are ugly, yes, but in a cool way, a way in which the Crocs just aren’t.

They aren’t subtle enough. They are the fashion equivalent of that phase tweens went through circa 2007-2010, when being “random” was considered the height of humour. It is now recognised in the fashion world that reproducing something traditionally considered to be hideous (e.g. Crocs) in a context that is traditionally considered to be fashionable (e.g. a fashion show) is a recipe for success (see: Birkenstocks; everything Alessandro Michele has designed for Gucci ever; geeky glasses, etc.). This has resulted in some designers taking a cringe-worthy approach to devising ideas. The thought process involves thinking about how one could be offbeat and original, and then pouncing on the first idea that comes to mind. These Balenciaga Crocs are a tad embarrassing. They are trying too hard.

Harper’s Bazaar insists the crocs “will sell out” and they are probably right. People will probably buy these and think they are the quirkiest thing since the last quirky thing. “In the future, you will be able to 3D print [crocs] at home because they are all one piece,” enthused Gvasalia to Vogue. I don’t think absolute horror and a very real a fear for the future of humanity were the emotions he aimed to instil in people with the suggestion of this concept, but alas. “I wanted this feeling [that] something dangerous is going to happen,” he said. I think he nailed that one.

Balenciaga’s platform crocs will be available in Balenciaga boutiques and on their website next spring, available in lurid yellow, plastic pink, acid green and grey, price on request.