The Latest Balenciaga Controversy? An Overpriced Towel

Photography via

POV: You hop out of the shower, you’re running embarrassingly late, and you forget to put your pants on.

What in the dystopian loungewear is going on here? Balenciaga — the polarizing label known for “gotcha!” design stunts — is back to its old tricks with a release that feels impressively out of touch: a towel skirt.

For the low price of $1,090, the Balenciaga towel skirt is exactly as it sounds. (Which is to say, not a whole lot.) A rectangular piece of terry cotton with two inner buttons and an adjustable waistline, the garment conjures that fresh-out-of-the-shower feeling — you know, the time when we all feel our most fashionable.

Complete with an embroidered logo and an inexplicable dry-clean-only warning, the item — which is part of the Spring 2024 collection and was made available for purchase earlier this week — is but the latest addition to the brand’s legacy of trolling the world. This is, after all, the fashion house that brought us Croc stilettos and trash bag totes.

It’s long been suspected that these unconventional releases are a means of social experimentation. But by nature of making them luxury goods, Balenciaga inadvertently implies that one must shell out hundreds of dollars to be in on the too-cool-to-care joke. And this time around, Ikea has something to say about it.

The Swedish homeware brand, known for its affordable decor and delicious meatballs, out-trolled the fashion giant with the swift release of a Balenciaga towel skirt dupe. In a very familiar-feeling campaign, the furniture company promoted its Vinarn bath towel — which retails for less than $14 — as a skirt and “spring fashion essential.” Petty? Indeed. Genius? Absolutely.

Ikea dupe Balenciaga towel skirt
Photography courtesy of IKEA

The thing is, Balenciaga’s gimmicks no longer feel radical or risky. These days, they’re what’s expected. On top of all that, this buzzy towel contraption is directly at odds with creative director Demna’s new post-scandal direction for the brand.

ICYMI, the viral Balenciaga controversy of 2022 found the label accused of promoting child pornography and prompted widespread calls for boycott. In the year since, Demna has said he would be turning the company’s focus away from its signature satirical stints and toward pared-down, high-quality pieces. “The emphasis is on my love for the craft of making clothes now,” he told Vogue in February.

Fast forward to today: Despite coming under fire for tone-deaf blunders, Balenciaga is seemingly doubling down on its irreverent image. Will yet another overpriced odd product will help rehabilitate its reputation? The jury’s still out on that — but the outrage online speaks for itself. On the other hand, this level of irony feels right at home in 2023.

Grocery prices are frustratingly high, but Erewhon has never been cooler. The economy is increasingly precarious, but quiet luxury style continues to reign supreme. Perhaps it’s time we look to our most mundane materials — like the humble beige bath towel — for creative inspiration. And as Ikea pointed out, you needn’t spend hundreds to do so.

If you’re into turning shower garb into streetwear, might we suggest this fairly priced four-pack? Or this selection of super absorbent Turkish cotton towels? Better yet, the best dupe of all may be sitting in your hamper as we speak.

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