10 may 2024

6 cheeky controversial fashion pieces

Qualified as ridiculous or a stroke of genius, artworks or pointless provocations, here are six shocking fashion pieces, from clothing to accessories and footwear.

Les sneakers destroyed de Balenciaga.

1. Balenciaga’s destroyed sneakers


In her 2021 book Le goût du moche (A Taste for the Ugly), journalist Alice Pfeiffer discusses moral and physical disgust and refers to Karl Rosenkranz’s Aesthetics of Ugliness: “Decomposition is the counterpoint to a hygienist and mechanized culture […] The disgusting is intimately linked to the private sphere, a space of abandonment and rebellion. This performance that we cannot assume in front of others…


Balenciaga was quite daring back in 2022. The worn out aspect of clothes was often mixed with a filthy aesthetic. The arrogant house showcasing Demna Gvasalia’s collections eventually went so far as to dismantle the shape of the shoe, which is originally supposed to protect the foot, to distinguish freemen from slaves during Antiquity, to embellish an outfit from the 17th century onwards, or to indicate the social status of a citizen. Balenciaga’s sneakers hijack and mock just about every historical and culture code.


Its design is reminiscent of Converse’s one and revamps those worn by athletes in the mid-20th century. Conversely, the “Balenciaga Paris” is completely torn-out and extremely dirty. In fact, it has been deliberately damaged for the still-life photographs used in their advertising campaign.


The design on sale appears slightly less worn-out, but still too damaged to be worn by the average person. Prices can reach 1,450 euros… A limited edition of 100 damaged pairs “destined to be worn for a lifetime” are currently available in black or white on the designer’s website until they are sold out.


“Balenciaga Paris” destroyed sneakers, from 695 to 1,450 euros.

La pochette pigeon de JW Anderson.

2. The pigeon clutch bag by JW Anderson


This unlikely idea stems from British fashion designer JW Anderson, who founded his eponymous label in 2008. The concept is a 3D-printed bird with a side opening and magnetic closure. In short, a pigeon clutch bag, or the epitome of the unusual, the unexpected, the caustic, the nice and ugly.


A clutch that is neither vulgar nor cheesy, but simply kitsch. Presented during the Fall-Winter 2022 show, this pigeon-shaped handbag follows in the footsteps of Jonathan Anderson’s penis bag.


This time, the designer was looking for “an element of something a bit silly, a contrast to the situation at the time […] a funny symbol in the landscape of metropolitan life, easily recognized and relatable for citizens in nearly every city in the world.”


Seeing the strange animal in the hands of Sarah Jessica Parker, the heroine of the iconic series Sex and The City, was enough to get people talking. The clutch was sold out. In Fashion: A Philosophical Disco Ball, philosopher Sophie Chassat may have grasped the purpose of this creation: “Everything happens as if fashion kept its balance from a permanent tension between incessant opposite polarities: conformism/distinction, collective/individual, constraint/liberation, ephemeral/recurrent, contemporary/old-fashioned, ugly/beautiful, appearance/being, etc.”


The pigeon clutch bag by JW Anderson, 890 euros.

Le tee-shirt imprimé sueur de Louis Gabriel Nouchi.

3. Louis Gabriel Nouchi’s T-shirt with faux sweat print


On the official website of French designer Louis Gabriel Nouchi, the brief description of the piece is crystal clear: “Straight cut t-shirt with sweat stains printed on it.”

The round-neck, short-sleeved top mimics the one worn by a weekend jogger finally completing his run, revealing faux sweat stains on the torso and brown rings under the armpits. Logically, neophytes will be puzzled…


Firstly, because it only takes five minutes of intensive workout to obtain a similar result. Secondly, because the general public won’t necessarily acknowledge the fashion credentials of this daring piece.


Against all odds, Louis Gabriel Nouchi cites an French epistolary novel published in 1782 as a reference – Dangerous Liaison by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, or the adventures of two noble libertines.


Each of our collections is inspired by a book,” explains fashion designer Mikael Bonhomme. “We had already presented this piece last season in a colored version, and wanted to question the erotic dimension of bodies and the stigma of sexuality. So we decided to represent a bodily fluid – the sweat of a soaked nightclub torso, for example – directly on a supposedly clean garment. The story of a body that has lived.


After a long reflection regarding the shape, shade and placement of the sweat mark on the fabric, this trompe-l’oeil finally saw the light of day – a visual and realistic retranscription rather than a simple aesthetic adaptation of “humors”.


Louis Gabriel Nouchi’ T-shirt with sweat print, 195 euros.

Le ruban adhésif de Raf Simons.

4. The duct tape belt by Raf Simons


Shortly after the release of his song RAF, American rapper A$AP Rocky justified his admiration for the Belgian designer in the columns of the Time Magazine: “I feel like Raf Simons has built a whole new religion around fashion. It’s to the point where kids, male and female alike, will get in full arguments over why he’s the greatest. It’s amazing how his prior work, his archives, is more important and relevant than anything that’s out today”.


Influenced in part by his compatriot Martin Margiela, Raf Simons shines with his use of pure, graphic lines, his patches of color without any ornamental detail.


As for artist Sterling Ruby, he was his inspiration for the prints in his Dior Fall/Winter 2012-2013 haute couture collection through an extensive process documented in the already cult film Dior and I.


It was certainly his passion for contemporary art and industrial design that prompted him to imagine a message tape for his Fall/Winter 2017-2018 collection in New York.


Like a mocking guru, he affixes the slogans “Raf Simons Youth Project (RSYP)”, “NY I <3 You” or “Walk With Me” to a simple 5 cm-wide roll of black or white adhesive tape.


This familiar tool, usually lost between dust and a can of paint, is turned into a fashion accessory, circling the waists of models wearing long black coats with satin lapels.


Raf Simons duct tape belt, 168 euros.

Le jean et la salopette Gucci et ses traces d’herbes.

5. The pair of jeans by Gucci and its realistic faux grass stains


Nirvana’s second album, Nevermind, was number one in sales worldwide by the end of 1991. London critic Nick Kent saw Kurt Cobain – a Christ-like figure with a frozen stare and a ripped voice – as the last hope for rock’n’roll’: “The sound is not pretty, but it holds the attention.


Blended with punk and heavy metal, Seattle’s grunge musical genre evolved into a dirty movement, characterizing by metonymy a deliberately and symbolic careless, scruffy style worn by the youth in the 1990s.


Thirty years on, Gucci continues the industrialization of counterculture and digs this chic worn-out aesthetic with ordinary denims and overalls that have apparently been methodically scrubbed on a fresh lawn.


Alessandro Michele had already presented these two creations in January 2020, infusing denim throughout his Men’s Fall/Winter collection in Milan.


The two damaged pieces only sparked things off weeks later, when they were sold for 680 and 980 euros – a price range that runs counter to the spirit of grunge, the anti-fashion of a rueful American youth.


Note that this Gucci piece made in organic cotton has received a special chemical-free treatment to imitate dirt, for an additional natural effect.


Gucci jeans with faux grass stains, 680 euros. Gucci overalls with faux grass stains, 980 euros.

Le jean Pee Stain Denim de JordanLuca.

6. The fake pee stain denim by JordanLuca


On its website, Anglo-Italian brand JordanLuca defines the DNA of its shirts as “an amalgamation of two cultures, British Savile Row and Italian tradition of tailoring to create something that subverts a classicism we embrace and yet reject all together as we move further from the original concept of formality.” 


Surprisingly enough, it was a pair of jeans that recently sparked things off… The company marketed a rather unusual piece, sold between $600 and $800, with a name that leaves no room for doubt – “Pee Stain Denim”, a pair of pants that reveal a fake pee stain on the crotch. Trashy for some, ridiculous for others, the denim is currently sold out…


Traduction Emma Naroumbo Armaing