These ‘Slave-Made’ Sneakers Will Be Auctioned Off for a Good Cause

When influencer Jacques Slade took to his YouTube channel to unveil a pair of “slave-made” sneakers, the video — and the social media campaign it was promoting — went viral.

Now, the shoes have made it to the auction circuit, with the Phillips Collection hosting its “Tongue + Chic” summer exhibition in New York City until Aug. 31, when it will sell the custom-made kicks online with all proceeds benefitting the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s anti-slavery initiatives.

Created by Dominic Chambrone, also known as the Shoe Surgeon, the mid-top sneakers boast leather, suede and mesh details and zig-zag stitching, but within its construction lie hidden facts about forced labor that draw attention to modern-day slavery.

For example, the shoe’s price tag reads $90, or “the estimated price of a slave today,” according to the advocacy group, which was instrumental in the “Unboxing the Truth” campaign launched in May. The tongue is imprinted with the figure 40 million, or the number of people trapped in conditions of slavery, the Thomson Reuters Foundation added in a statement.

“The details of these very shoes brought the issue of modern slavery to a huge new audience of young consumers, many of whom would never have questioned the human price of the clothes they wear,” said Monique Villa, the organization’s CEO. “The shoes have become a symbol of the action we can take to fight one of the world’s most shameful of crimes.”

The exhibit, located at 450 Park Avenue, will additionally feature more than 20 pairs of one-of-a-kind sneakers designed by major artists including Takashi Murakami, KAWS, Kehinde Wiley, Jenny Holzer, Damien Hirst and more. Panel discussions, social media contests and sneaker selfie booths will also help bring together both sneaker collectors and enthusiasts.

“Tongue + Chic” was curated by Elizabeth Semmelhack, senior curator at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, in collaboration with Arnold Lehman, Phillips’ senior advisor and former director of the Brooklyn Museum.

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