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15 Times Designers Trolled the Fashion World With Ridiculously Expensive Designs

8 minute read

As a form of artistic expression, fashion has never functioned as a purely utilitarian pursuit, often being used as a vehicle for political or cultural symbolism, a documentation of the times, or sometimes just a flight of fancy. In fact, the embrace of the fantastical and creative — especially when it comes to high fashion — can be so earnest within the industry that it’s given birth to a general idea that the fashion world is willing to go to ridiculous lengths for the sake of style.

The idea, however, is not completely unfounded, with some designers using this creative margin as a way to flex their funny bones with outlandish designs (often with equally outlandish pricing) to show the extent that demand and desire can have when it comes to creating hype for their products; long story short: The Emperor’s New Clothes should perhaps be read less as a fairy tale and more like a cautionary tale.

From Jeremy Scott’s Moschino runway dress made out of a plastic dry cleaning bag to Supreme’s highly-coveted obscure item drops, here’s a look at 15 times designers trolled the fashion industry.

Moschino’s $735 Plastic Dry Cleaning Bag Dress: Moschino’s personality-filled designs have always taken an irreverent approach to fashion (look no further than the time that creative director Jeremy Scott sent Gigi Hadid down the runway dressed as a real-life bouquet of flowers,) but none caused the kind of buzz that his dress made of a transparent plastic dry cleaning bag did. The dress, which was part of a Moschino collection inspired by trash, garbage and “upcycling,” retailed for $735 and a slip to wear underneath it was not included. The upside of this trendy dress is that if the Moschino model breaks the bank, you can easily snag the look for less by sending out your clothes to get dry cleaned.

Balenciaga’s bright blue, $2,145 Ikea dupe: Demna Gvasalia’s sense of irony was strong at his own brand Vetements but only intensified with his role as creative director at Balenciaga, where he riffs on everything from the cultural to the political (a recent collection has him reworking Bernie Sanders’ logo art into Balenciaga logos and producing high fashion campaign t-shirts.) However, it’s Gvasalia’s embrace of high-low culture that probably most defines his work and none more so than his luxury take on Ikea’s Frakta bag. From the straps to the blue hue, the bags are basically dead ringers for one another except for the fact that Balenciaga’s is made out of butter leather and Ikea’s Frakta is made out of sturdy polypropylene — oh yeah, and that the Balenciaga goes for a hot $2,145, while the Frakta is just $0.99. There’s that too.

Which sparked lots of much more affordable, DIY Ikea fashion expression: Because trends trickle down swiftly and often furiously in the age of the Internet, fashion and especially streetwear enthusiasts took Gvasalia’s approval of the Ikea bag and design to heart, creating DIY clothes and accessories of their own out of Frakta bags. Everything from shoes to swimwear materialized.

Vetements’ $800+ hoodies: Before Demna Gvasalia was creating $2,145 Frakta-esque bags for Balenciaga, he burst onto the fashion scene at his own label, Vetements, with $1,050 hoodie sweatshirts emblazoned with a quote from Beverly Hills 90210 that instantly became a fashion favorite. In the seasons following, Gvasalia could reasonably be touted as the man responsible for high fashion’s embrace of the hoodie — and particularly, the designer hoodie. While the humble sweatshirt with a hood can be procured fairly inexpensively, hype beasts and fashion women were buying Vetements’ $885 Titanic-themed hoodie (of which Celine Dion was a fan – so meta!) and later, cleaning out down-and-dirty skate magazine Thrasher‘s merch supply, much to the chagrin and dissent of skaters everywhere, thanks to a Thrasher-inspired piece on the Vetements runway.

Jil Sander’s $290 paper bag: Minimalist line Jil Sander had an on-the-nose approach to their trademark style which was seen most presciently when they debuted a paper bag carry-all in 2012. Retailing for $290, it featured coated paper, some light stitching, some grommets, and of course, the all-important Jil Sander logo, but basically looked like the paper bag you might get your bacon, egg, and cheese in from your corner bodega.

Kanye West’s dystopian first Yeezy collection that included a $1,360 distressed sweater: Kanye’s no stranger to controversy, but his Yeezy fashion collections have been especially buzz-worthy. While his creative staging with Vanessa Beecroft is fodder for an entirely different discussion, it’s his dystopian, distressed designs that have sent tongues wagging with many consumers questioning if they really wanted to spend more than $1000 on a sweater that looked like it went through the ringer, multiple times.

Prada’s $185 paper clip: When Prada debuted a branded paper clip-esque money clip to the tune of $185, the Internet went wild.

Supreme’s infamous box logo brick that retailed for $30, but is now being sold to the tune of nearly $1000: The conceit of Supreme as both a cultural phenomenon and a streetwear brand is that its merchandise (often made in collaboration with other brands and consisting of household or novelty items) isn’t expensive but it’s sold in limited quantities, so once it’s gone, it’s gone. This skillful employment of supply and demand has only upped the brand’s cool credentials to a cult status, especially among hype beasts who queue up outside their store for hours just to cop the latest “drop.” Perhaps the most illustrative of their wares of this phenomenon is the brick they sold with their now-iconic box logo. While the original bricks were sold for $30 a pop, the resale markup can reach nearly $1000.

Raf Simons’ $200 duct tape: Raf Simons, designer of his eponymous line, creative director at Calvin Klein, TIME 100 honoree, and style innovator, debuted stylized duct tape as a part of his menswear collections this year. Used as a sort of DIY accessory tape (it can be used to cinch waists like a belt or to merely add some decoration to an otherwise bland outfit,) it retails for a cool $200, which can be fairly cost-effective depending on how liberally you tape yourself.

Tiffany & Co.’s $650 ping pong paddles: Creative director Reed Krakoff has debuted “Everyday Items” as a sort of celebration of casual luxury at Tiffany’s, but his idea of everyday costs may differ from yours. Take for instance, his Tiffany blue and walnut wood ping pong paddles that he would like you to purchase for $650.

Thom Browne’s $2,600 dog-shaped bag: Thom Browne’s whimsical designs have sent a unicorn down the runway and now they’re also bringing us dog-shaped bags that might cost more than your rent. Modeled after Browne’s adorable wire-haired dachshund, Hector, the pebbled leather and suede bags retail for $2,600.

Dolce & Gabbana’s $34,000 hand-painted fridge: Italian maximalists Dolce & Gabbana are fans of all things that hearken to the richness of Italian culture, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that they would debut a kitchen line. While their limited-edition, $110 boxes of pasta brought the heat, it was their hand-painted $34,000 refrigerators that really sent the fashion world into a tizzy.

Margiela’s $1,425 distressed sneakers: How much would you pay for a pair of sneakers that look like your dog ate them? Margiela is selling a pair of heavily “distressed” sneakers for nearly $2,000, but given their celebrity following and cult status with shoe collectors, don’t be surprised if you see a pair of these babies on your favorite sneakerhead.

Alexander Wang’s $225 black leather teddy bear: Alexander Wang’s known for his youthful and edgy designs that speak to downtown culture, an aesthetic that recently brought to children’s toys. As a part of a limited edition capsule, he created teddy bears with his own spin on it — crafting the bear in black leather, one of his signature materials. The price point was very on brand for Wang as well, clocking in at $225.

Chanel’s $1,500 boomerang that was accused of cultural appropriation: While Chanel is no stranger to the pricey logo-laden novelty item (remember that time that they created an entire Coco Chanel-themed grocery store for a runway show that ended with attendees doing grocery shopping after the showing?), their Chanel-emblazoned boomerang from their “luxury sports collection” will go down in infamy because of its insensitive appropriation of aboriginal culture that raised eyebrows across the Internet.

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Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com