If you can copy others, others can copy you too
In fashion today, being ‘inspired’ by the work of others is quite a regular occurrence. Sometimes, designers slap the descriptor ‘irony’ to their ‘inspired’ work as aesthetic validity of nothing better to do than to embrace the banal. Reviving—or reliving—the past, an unceasing designer obsession, can be considered a stab at irony too since, oftentimes it is deliberate rehash. The ironic has become, sadly, as tired as the eclectic.
Demna Gvasalia, in recent memory, brought irony to the attention of a new generation of fashion consumers when he introduced the DHL T-shirt that can be had for at least half the salary of the courier man. That was in 2016. Irony has since become a bit tired, and rather meaningless, we dare say. Yet, Mr Gvasalia continued marching with irony, introducing, one after another, it’s-cool-because-it’s-not-cool items, the recent one being the above Balenciaga key ring with a pendant in the shape of a Christmas tree-shaped air freshener usually hung in cars.
At first, Balenciaga was getting a lot of social-media buzz for the key ring. Then, it was reported by TMZ that Balenciaga is being sued by The Car Freshener Company—maker of air fresheners that looked like shaped cardboard coasters—for using the company’s Little Trees shape without official consent. This is not an Ikea Fraktar moment for Balenciaga.
Not long after that, it came to our attention the existence of Little Trees-like, die-cut air freshener in the form of Balenciaga Triple S sneakers that included the brand’s logo. Can a cardboard cutout be considered a copy? These are marketed as a “collectible” by Indonesian company Hey La. Sold proudly as a home-grown product in such made-in-Indonesia-only stores as Localstrunk in Jakarta, the air freshener could be considered a product of the age of irony.
To be sure, the Triple S, in ‘Strawberry Bliss’ (not quite a scent you’d associate with expensive designer kicks), is not the only shoe silhouette air freshener manufacturer Hey La offers. There is the Adidas NMD and Stan Smith, as well as the Yeezy. So this could be a serious business that peddles irony. Not sure about the rest, but was Balenciaga’s permission sought? If not, will Kering sue? Or, will irony triumph in the end?
Photos: (left) Antonioli/Highsnobiety, (right) Zhao Xiangji