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IS BALENCIAGA'S 'DISTRESSED' R30 000 SNEAKER ART OR EXPENSIVE TRASH? I hosted an energetic debate about a controversial limited-edition sneaker released by Balenciaga. The 'distressed' design, looking like very dirty, well-worn shoes that only persons under conditions of extreme poverty may be reluctantly compelled to wear, not having alternative choices, retails at some $ 1,850. Mikhail Brown, who writes on the politics of fashion, framed a fascinating debate in Sunday Times recently (https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/lifestyle/fashion-and-beauty/2022-06-19-would-you-pay-r30k-for-dirty-broken-sneakers/ ) on whether these dirty broken sneakers could be considered art. He excavated the biography of the designer to make sense of what the motivations were behind this work. In this episode of In The Ring, gender activist Vanita Daniels ( Director of Rise Up Against Gender Based Violence) joined Brown as fellow guests to discuss a myriad of issues. Just some of the questions we explored included the following: Is the design ugly? Can a sneaker be a work of art? Is functional value an exclusionary criterion in determining what counts as art? Does a motif that draws on the experiences of the poor, or those of oppressed and vulnerable groups like homeless people and refugees, count as unethical appropriation of their stories? Is it wrong for a work of art to be priced exorbitantly when it draws on struggle narrative? Is fashion necessary political? Or, can I dress as I want without engaging issues of sustainability and ethics?  Enjoy!
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