Luxury fashion brand Balenciaga was panned by Chinese consumers after it launched a 12,000 yuan (US$1,850) trainers line that looks like they have been fished out from the rubbish dump to promote environmental protection . Balenciaga announced on April 9 that only 100 pairs of these limited edition trainers would be available for its new campaign promotion. There was a separate release of trainers that look a bit less beaten up in March and cost between US$495 and US$625. The shoes went viral on Weibo this week and were widely criticised as being too ugly to be an effective awareness tool but more as an example of tone-deafness from wealthy people. “I can find a pair of these shoes in the bin for free,” one person wrote. Another asked: “Wouldn’t it be more eco-friendly not to sell these shoes?” “Is it a game for the rich?” asked a user. At the time of writing, 2.12 million users on Weibo had interacted with the topic. The idea behind the trainers is to promote awareness of how human consumption impacts the environment and the role fast fashion plays in global waste. The trainers are designed to look extremely scuffed, dirtied, and roughed up, with worn rubber and fabric rippings all over the shoes. Even the Balenciaga logo printed on the toe seems dirty and faded. However, despite their looks, Balenciaga said the goal is for the shoe to be worn for a long time to promote sustainable consumption. It is not the first time big brands have stumbled in China. Chinese people mocked an umbrella that is planned to be launched in June that cost 11,000 yuan (US$1,629) but is not waterproof. Last year, Chanel was criticised after it rolled out a product line of “messy hair accessories” that cost upwards of 19,200 yuan (US$2,844). State-media Global Times reported that the luxury market had grown to about 350 billion yuan (US$52 billion) in 2021, indicating that the market grew in China despite headwinds from the Covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, demand for domestic luxury brands has risen as young consumers aim for a “China chic” aesthetic. Large international brands have also tried to tap into China-focused luxury products by releasing items that feature Chinese characters, phrases and imagery. Bain & Company, an American consultancy firm, predicted that China would surpass the US as the world’s largest luxury market in 2025.