Balenciaga’s stiletto Crocs are dumb footwear but great marketing

Balenciaga has teamed with Crocs on a high-heeled clog.
Balenciaga has teamed with Crocs on a high-heeled clog.
Image: Reuters/Tingshu Wang
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The internet is abuzz over Balenciaga’s latest collaboration with Crocs, a high-heeled version of Crocs’s signature lumpy foam clog. On Twitter, users have expressed shock and mystification over the design. Balenciaga, after all, is a Paris-based luxury company, presumably in the business of selling beautiful, exquisitely crafted goods. Crocs are known foremost for all-day comfort, a trait quickly undermined by adding a high heel.

The shoe defies these expectations and seems designed to provoke a strong emotional reaction, which is essentially its job. Oddball fashion products such as stiletto Crocs rarely sell in large numbers, but that’s hardly the point as they’re generally only produced in limited quantities anyway. Instead, their effectiveness lies in their ability to grab attention and differentiate a company in a very crowded and noisy marketplace.

Balenciaga, which is owned by Kering, the successful luxury conglomerate whose portfolio also includes brands such as Gucci and Saint Laurent, has established itself as a subversive voice in the industry under designer Demna Gvasalia. He has a habit of toying with proportions and construction techniques, and of reinterpreting common mass-market items, occasionally turning out viral products that capture the internet’s attention with their weirdness or plain audacity. There was the $2,145 reproduction of IKEA’s inexpensive blue tote a few years back; the $1,290 t-shirt shirt, made of a button-up shirt attached to a t-shirt; as well as the layered parka that recalled a gag from an episode of the show “Friends.”

The new Balenciaga collaboration, unveiled as part of the brand’s spring 2022 collection, isn’t the first time Balenciaga and Crocs have worked together. In 2017 the companies teamed on a towering platform clog. “It’s a very innovative shoe,” Gvasalia explained at the time. “It’s light, it’s a one-piece foam mould and to me these kind of techniques and working with these kind of materials is very Balenciaga.”

The Balenciaga shoe even appeared in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2019 fashion exhibition on camp, propped on a pedestal for visitors to marvel at.

Products such as these, or Balenciaga’s giant hit sneakers, can seem absurd, but they give the brand a distinct identity in the marketplace and help it stand apart from its peers, often while generating plenty of media attention. The same applies to Crocs, which has teamed with other high-end labels, such as London’s Christopher Kane, as well as numerous celebrities to promote its shoes.

“Our Christopher Kane and Balenciaga collaborations led to invaluable PR coverage,” Andrew Rees, CEO of Crocs, said on a 2017 call with investors.