Let’s All Laugh at Balenciaga’s $1,300 LED Sunglasses

Let’s All Laugh at Balenciaga’s $1,300 LED Sunglasses
Image: Balenciaga

Fashion and technology, particularly when it comes to wearables, are inextricably linked. We’re already wearing smartwatches, and smart glasses look to be the next big thing. But whatever our wearable tech future looks like, I assure you these Balenciaga LED Frame Sunglasses are not it.

For $1,305 you can pre-order a pair of sunglasses that light up. Mind you, the whole thing doesn’t light up. Just the Balenciaga logo on the left temple. It apparently lights up in multiple colours. According to High Snobiety, you can control the light show with taps courtesy of a built-in touch sensor. There’s also a Balenciaga logo lasered into the right lens, in case you forgot these are Balenciaga sunglasses. The whole thing is made of nylon. And as icing on the cake, it requires USB charging — and it’s not even USB-C. There is no information on how much mileage you’ll get out of a single charge.

Technically, this is a relaunch. The sunglasses first debuted in 2019 and purportedly are inspired by light-up sneakers and complement some ugly-arse Balenciaga light-up sneaks. That kind of kills my soul, as it suggests these were popular enough to warrant a comeback for a device that does almost nothing… when there are so many fugly audio smart glasses out there that could use a style boost.

Time and time again, haute couture loves to pull this kind of stunt. Wow, a Louis Vuitton handbag with flexible screens sewn into the sides — a bag so hideous, impractical, and expensive they didn’t announce the price. Actually, Louis Vuitton is a repeat offender with overpriced Wear OS smartwatches that cost thousands and this $3,994 UFO speaker. Tag Heuer tricked hypebeasts into forking over $2,600 for an ugly Super Mario smartwatch. Balenciaga committed f**t crimes with this $1,700 high-heeled collaboration with Vibram. I don’t even want to talk about will.i.am’s stupendously idiotic smart mask.

We all know by now that this is haute couture’s schtick. Slap on their branding to a fairly average piece of tech, charge an obscene price to create a veneer of exclusivity, profit. And it works. They wouldn’t keep doing this nonsense if it didn’t. Sure, anyone stupid and rich enough to buy these glasses gets what they deserve. The disappointing part of all this is, it’s not pushing anything forward.

Fashion is an area where there’s the freedom to envision a bonkers future where we wear technology that’s not only functional but also a means of artistic expression. It’s a concept that no one’s quite nailed down yet. You can see it with smart glasses. Google Glass was highly functional but looked incredibly dorky — nothing that the average person would happily wear in real life. Other smart glasses and sunglasses have opted to be bland Warby Parker knockoffs, with very little function to forgive the lack of style. Facebook’s come closest, glomming onto Ray-Ban’s chic reputation to sell us on its smart sunglasses that don’t actually do much. This makes sense. Silicon Valley decided Patagonia vests were the pinnacle of sartorial elegance, so it’s logical they’d prioritise function over form. This is the area where fashion brands could make a meaningful — and likely profitable — contribution.

But I guess we just have to settle for overpriced bullshit designed to help Instagram influencers build clout.