Last week, many customers stepped into a Balenciaga store thinking they were walking into Gucci. Their mistake was understandable: The front window appeared to have been spray-painted with the word “Gucci.”
The occasion for the faux vandalism was the second installment of the Hacker Project series, with items dropping at 74 Balenciaga locations.
At first glance, the drop looked as if Gucci had set up an accessories pop-up inside the Balenciaga store. The bags, hats, scarves and wallets mimicked Gucci’s tone-on-tone patterns and signature green and red stripe.
But on closer inspection, they were patterned not with Gucci G’s but with Balenciaga B’s. An even closer look revealed that the metal clasp is identical to a Gucci bag, apart from its engraving that reads: “Balenciaga.”
If this is confusing, it’s meant to be. The Hacker Project was created by Balenciaga’s creative director Demna Gvasalia and Gucci’s Alessandro Michele to pose questions about luxury, authenticity and inspiration.
It is at once super-simple and hard to explain. The artist Jack Greer was on hand to customize 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 was also tagging bags with “THIS IS [your name’s] BAG.”
Business was steady in the first few hours after the opening, with a mix of tourists, Balenciaga fans and private couriers buzzing in and out of the stores. Some fans rejoiced, some shoppers scratched their heads, and several security guards who worked stopped to make sure the store window hadn’t actually been vandalized.