Will Balenciaga’s latest ‘ugly shoe’ reach another footwear fever pitch?

Love or loathe, Balenciaga has released a new ugly shoe. And by ugly we mean the creators of one of the world’s most successful luxury footwear designs is hoping to replicate the hype and profits of its Triple S sneaker, which first launched in 2017, with a new, urgh, five-toe rubber sock.

This time around Balenciaga has partnered with Italian rubber sole producer Vibram, famous for its FiveFinger model, where the front of the shoe is separated by toes. Not to be confused with Margiela’s Tabi model. Designed for the outdoors, Vibram’s shoes have been conspicuously absent from fashion’s narrative, appealing instead to a demographic that thrives miles away from the catwalk.

Until now

First revealed on the fall 2020-21 catwalk, the Balenciaga Toe collection is slowly making its way onto social channels and in stores. The unusual shoe combines Vibram’s design with a 5-finger toe and recycled knit sock and, depending on the model, preformed square heel or suspended sole. Each model of the limited edition bears the logos of both companies and is numbered. The color palette includes black and bright shades of pink and red.

After the Crocs platform shoe and Ikea bag, Balenciaga creative director Demna Gvasalia has a knack for turning non-fashionable items into haute must-haves. Items which come with price tag, of course, as the Vibram collab sells for 1,090 euros on its e-commerce site.

While the hype of the Triple S has deftly subsided, at its height it rode the crest of the Dad sneaker wave, with many buyers willing to pay more than double the retail price for a pair of of it ultra chunky, comically large proportioned trainers. Unable to keep up with demand, Balenciaga moved its manufacturing from Italy to China, producing a similar but not the same shoe, and like all trends, desire fizzled out.

A boom in sales led Balenciaga to be Kering’s fastest growing luxury brand in 2018, with millennials driving demand. In May of that year Kering said Balenciaga had stellar sales in the past two quarters, trumping Gucci’s 49 percent rise in comparable sales in the January to March period.

Let’s see if the Vibram Toe collaboration will inspire a similar wave.

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Image via Balenciaga

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