Dec 7, 2022

Mawazo Writing Africa

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PODCAST DEBATE | Is Balenciaga’s ‘distressed’ R30,000 sneaker art or expensive trash?

Listen to the debate:

Eusebius on TimesLIVE moderated a vigorous debate over controversial limited-edition Balenciaga sneakers.

The “distressed” design, which looks like very dirty, well-worn shoes that only those in extreme poverty have to wear reluctantly, retails for around $1,850 (R30,000).

Mikhail Brown , who writes on the politics of fashion, recently had an intriguing debate in The Sunday Times about whether the dirty and broken sneakers can be considered art. He dug up the designer’s biography to understand the motivations behind this work.

In this episode by Eusebius on TimesLIVE, gender activist and leader of Rise Up Against Gender Based Violence, Vanita Daniels, joined Brown to discuss a range of topics.

Some questions they explored were: Is the design ugly? Can a sneaker be a work of art? Is functional value an exclusion criterion to determine what counts as art? Does a motif drawing on the experiences of the poor or oppressed and vulnerable groups such as the homeless and refugees count as unethical appropriation of their stories? Is it wrong for a work of art to have an exorbitant price if it is based on camphor narratives? Is fashion necessarily political? And can I dress however I want without dealing with issues of sustainability and ethics?

A wide range of views have emerged and no doubt many more will be heard by listeners to Eusebius on TimesLIVE added , provoked by Daniels and Brown in this latest episode.

Listen to previous episodes here.

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