Style Icons: Balenciaga's Triple S
Under Demna Gvasalia's creative direction, Balenciaga has scored some major street cred. From the Hourglass blazer to the handbag of the same name, the Speed sneakers, the Political jerseys, or the viral sensation that was the Ikea-inspired tote bag, the Georgian designer has been following in the founding couturier's footsteps, consistently proposing original and innovative pieces. Difficult as it may be to single out any one creation, his masterpiece just might be the Triple S.
The sneaker that wasn't one
Unveiled at the Fall-Winter 2017 show, the Triple S made a decidedly polarizing impression. It wasn't hard to see why: this massive, blown-up shoe contrasted with the elegance usually seen on the runway. Inspired by "dad shoes," these incredibly uncool, paternal kicks soon became the new must-have and spawned a sea of copies. And yet, the absurdist, artsy dimension of the design was ignored by most counterfeiters. Taking hints from Marcel Duchamp's Readymade style, Gvasalia (along with Virgil Abloh) has made a point of revisiting mundane everyday objects and giving them a second life. The originality of the Triple S resides in its versatility and its capacity to wink at exactly what it's not: a real sneaker. Heavy and sporting rigid, thick soles, it's more of a performance accessory than one that would facilitate a super-active lifestyle. In other words, it eschews the technology that acts as a selling-point for so many of today's sneakers, insisting that we keep our feet firmly planted on the ground.
It's all about sole
As its name suggests (or, sort of), the Triple S is all in the "sole," the word referenced by the shoe's name. Between appropriation and invention, these kicks were born of the fusion of three sneaker soles stacked on top of one another to create a kind of sporty confection that hasn't stopped reinventing itself since its launch four years ago. Reinterpreted in a version with translucent air bubbles or in fluorescent hues, the Triple S is the it-shoe that's enjoying a good deal more than fifteen minutes of fame, thanks in large part to Balenciaga's season-by-season remixes — a treatment they've also given their most emblematic handbags. Indeed, if the bag used to be the social signifier par excellence, it seems safe to say that it's time to start looking a few degrees south.
Ugly is a state of mind
Another contributor to the Triple S' success was the way it created buzz about itself and flew in the face of what we expect from fashion today. It was about more than an original aesthetic. Much like Marni's Fussbetts from several decades back, this model introduced a design that was controversial, and the real object of controversy here was what some deemed the shoe's "ugliness." Gvasalia, as explained to the Washington Post a few years ago, doesn't appreciate the term: "I cannot feel the ownership or responsibility, for example, for ugly sneakers or whatever they call it," he says. "I cannot feel that responsibility because I truly do not consider Triple S as an ugly sneaker," he says. "I don't like ugly things. Like, I don't know who came up with that. I actually love beautiful things; but I maybe try to see beauty in other things that are not conventionally considered as beautiful today."
Footwear that fuses
Arguments aside, the great feat of the Triple S has been its aptitude at bringing together fans of luxury ready-to-wear and sneakerheads. If the former took a moment to come around to the sneaker trend, what with their traditional scarceness on the runway (with the exception of 90's Prada), the latter generally found greater interest in sportswear brands than in bonafide luxury labels. With his cheeky, groundbreaking creation, Demna Gvasalia created a bridge between these two worlds and brought together the streetwear and high-fashion crowds. It was a success that, today, cannot be denied. In fact, it only grows year after year: for the Fall-Winter 2021 collection, as in seasons past, this new basic and its unexpected updates were quite simply unmissable.