On Monday, several customers walked into the Balenciaga store on Madison Avenue, thinking they were entering Gucci. Their mistake was understandable: the front window looked like it had been spray painted with the word “Gucci” on it.
The Occasion of the False Vandalism was the second installment of the Hacker Project series, with items deposited at 74 Balenciaga sites.
At first glance, the drop looked like Gucci had installed an accessories pop-up inside the Balenciaga store. The bags, hats, scarves and wallets imitated Gucci’s signature tone-on-tone patterns and green and red stripes.
But on closer inspection, they were modeled not with those of Gucci G but with those of Balenciaga B. An even closer examination revealed that the metal clasp is identical to a Gucci bag, with the exception of his engraving which says: “Balenciaga”.
If it’s confusing, it is supposed to be. The Hacker Project was created by Balenciaga Creative Director Demna Gvasalia and Gucci’s Alessandro Michele to ask questions about luxury, authenticity and inspiration.
It’s both super simple and hard to explain. Artist Jack Greer was on hand to personalize the shopping bags with “THIS IS NOT A GUCCI BAG” in a drippy graffiti font. For customers who wanted a bag with less Magritte and more of themselves, Mr. Greer also labeled the bags with “THIS IS [your name’s] BAG.”
Activity was stable in the first hours after opening, with a mix of tourists, Balenciaga fans and private couriers entering and exiting the store. Some fans rejoiced, some shoppers scratched their heads and several security guards who worked in the neighborhood stopped to make sure the store window had not been vandalized.
Name: Ryan lee
Lives in: Washington DC
Tell me about your kicks.
These are Jordan Fours. I was an assistant manager at Finish Line, and low-key that turned me into a hypebeast. It got me into the shoes and the culture and everything.
Is that a Gucci bag you’re carrying?
It’s a Louis bag, actually. It’s a graduation gift that I bought for myself. I graduated from the University of Virginia last May and just found a job this week.
What is your job?
Economic research. I just bought the scarf and a card holder to celebrate.
Name: Luis Najera
Lives in: Miami via Mexico.
You are obviously a Gucci fan with your frames.
I am. Alessandro Michele did a fantastic job. And now they’re doing this collaboration with Balenciaga, I think it’s the best collaboration they’ve done so far. The monogram is on the top. I’m going to go to Gucci now.
Do you work in fashion?
I work for Yamamoto design, an Adidas collaboration.
Tell me about your jacket.
My Comme des Garçons jacket? It’s also another collaboration, with a UK brand
Name: Carlyn powell
Occupation: Education administrator
Lives in: Long island
Could we take your picture?
My Uber is coming in a minute, but sure.
What did you think of the collaboration?
I love this hacker thing. Being from New York, as soon as I saw the graffiti, I was like, “This is so New York. And the merger of the two houses is so fluid.
So don’t you think graffiti is a bane?
No, I like it. And inside was the gentleman writing on the bags, doing the graffiti right here. It’s so daring because when it comes to our bags, we don’t want to have a brand or anything on it. But, again, it’s the graffiti that hooks me.
Where are you going in that Uber?
I head for Penn Station, then I return to the island. But it’s still a minute away. It must be in the light.
Name: Nick collins
Lives in: Hell’s Kitchen
Do you rhinestone these pants yourself?
No, it’s Y / Project.
They are magnificent.
I really abused them because I can’t forget how obsessed I am with them.
Did you like something in the store?
I’m a stylist, so I just came over to see what they had available. I am in the stores Monday through Friday all day. I see it all, so I’m a little insensitive to luxury retail at this point.
What are you looking for when you are in the store?
Our customers are looking for less common items: limited edition watches, jewelry, exotic handbags. I work for a private personal shopping company based in the Middle East.
Are your customers also mainly located in the Middle East?
No, we’ve been in business for almost seven years, so we have customers all over the world now.
Can you tell what is the name of your business?
I can not. Sorry.
Name: Miles De Niro
Lives in: Harlem
Tell me about this Balenciaga baby bag around the neck.
It is an ode to Cristóbal Balenciaga’s old drawings and to the silhouettes he created. So it has history, it’s cute, but it’s too small. What can you put in it? Literally there are keys here.
What is that shrug you’re wearing?
A dead rabbit. I do not know. This leather coat is vintage Ralph Lauren.
What do you do after that?
Terrorize Bergdorf. I want to scare the old ladies.
Name: Shawn lovejoy
Occupation: See below
Lives in: the Lower East Side
What brought you to Balenciaga today?
I’m looking for boots. It’s the season. I wanted something that had a bit of weight, big chunks, and funk. But they are doing things that seem to be able to destroy Tokyo within them.
So where are you looking next?
I’ve looked everywhere else before. I could tell you where they are, but it’s a long list.
Was Prada too funky for you?
Yeah, just too many Lego blocks.
What do you do for a living?
This is my last day at my job. For the past 10 years, I have worked as a product and packaging designer for Tom Ford Beauty.
Sabbatical. Refocus, rebalance, refresh.
Name: Patrick Pierre
Occupation: Online trader
Lives in: Portland, Ore.
Did you walk in with that fanny pack?
Yes, I walked in with it.
So what do you have?
We have the black and white Balenci socks. I really went to try the Sky Blue Triple S because I wanted to see how they felt. I will buy them in a month. I will budget them.
What did you think of “piracy?” “
To be honest with you, I hadn’t even noticed it. I was focusing on those sky blue Triple S. It’s hot.
What’s good about them?
Coming here my mentality was to go get the speed coaches. But we were standing in a post office earlier today, and I saw a lady in the speed coaches, and I asked her opinion. She told me that as a New Yorker, speed coaches worked for her. But if I’m from Portland, where it rains all the time, you better go with the Triple S.
Name: Mikhaele Ible
Occupation: Executive account
Lives in: East New York
What was the reaction to wearing the YZY GAP down jacket?
Everyone has questions. They want to know if it’s hot, when you have it, that kind of stuff.
So when did you get it?
Sometimes last week.
Do you identify as a hypebeast?
I do not think so. You can’t tell because I’m wearing Kanye. But if it’s not Kanye, I don’t care.
What do you love so much about Kanye?
I just like what he represents: a free thinker, going against the grain, telling the truth, no matter how much it costs you.
Are you planning to go to Wyoming like he did?
Name: Vincent jackson
Lives in: Los Angeles
Name: Nicole robinson
Lives in: Los Angeles
So you didn’t know anything about the collaboration?
NR: No, we were just passing by and thought someone had actually sprayed “Gucci” on their store.
VJ: I thought to myself, “They are really crazy here in New York. “
What brought you to New York?
NR: We came here for a friend’s birthday. We are leaving today.
You haven’t bought anything from Balenciaga?
NR: No, I’m not a fan yet. I’m trying to find the Louis store.
Name: Lamart “LJ” James
Lives in: Downtown Manhattan
So what brought you to Balenciaga today?
I do courier work. They sent me to the wrong address. I have to go around the corner.
Did you see anything?
Not really. I was going to watch the Gucci / Balenciaga stuff, but I’m working right now.
Tell me about your mask.
It’s a great mask. I actually got it from one of the people who does screen printing for Billionaire Boys Club.
What is this jacket? I love it.
This jacket is actually Zara. Just like a canvas, a jacket splashed with paint everywhere.