The display of Balenciaga clothes has been accused of using "homeless chic" (Katy Clifton)
Councillor Emine Ibrahim, deputy leader of Haringey Council, said she was “appalled” when she saw the display in Selfridges, calling it a “truly shallow reflection of consumerism”.
She told the Standard: “Young men and women are dying on our streets in London and the idea that this imagery of people sleeping on the streets – one face down and the other shivering – can in some way be used to promote a luxury brand like Balenciaga is truly astonishing.
“I don’t think that they feel very chic when in the winter months the cold becomes a battle between life and death. One comment highlighted how telling it was that the mannequins were faceless, this tells me how dehumanising the display is. It is insensitive consumerism at its extreme.
“Selfridges needs to publically apologise and use this poorly-judged display to highlight and bring focus to the issue of street homelessness in our city. Maybe those who are going to buy the £500 trainers and clothes from Balenciaga’s winter collection will stop for a minute and think.”
Selfridges said the installation and creative output behind the display came from Balenciaga, theluxury fashion brand founded in Spain.
Balenciaga display at Selfridges as centre of row
Speaking about the impact of the display, Streets Kitchen organiser Jon Glackinsuggestedthe mannequinswere “almost a take of a Banksy image”.
“How do you think a homeless person would feel if they looked through the window and saw that display? It trivialises the problem of homelessness,” he said.
“The designers behind the display should know better, their jobs are to use images to promote things and these kinds of images just reinforce stereotypes.
Selfridges and Balenciaga have since apologised for any offence caused by the display.
A Selfridges spokesman said: “The Corner Shop at Selfridges Oxford Street is designed to play host to creative partners and allow them to showcase their artistic vision as freely as possible.
"The Arts, and bold artistic expression, have always been central to our ethos as a brand. We aim to present surprising and often thought-provoking works and collaborations with our partners and guest creatives across all of our platforms.
“Of course, we would like to make clear that the mannequins in this particular display are not mechanised in any way and are static.”
Balenciaga added: "The American artist Mark Jenkins designed a series of pieces on an indoor theme – the postures you see from people waiting in airports, for example.
"We did not expect this misinterpretation. We are sorry this has caused offence and have modified it to avoid any further upset.”
Others on social media said the displaywas both “immoral and vile”, with another writing it was the “rich mocking not the poor, but the poorest”.
One person wrote: “'Homeless chic’ being used to peddle a preview launch at Selfridges of a new range of Balenciaga trainers and hoodies.
“Everyone seemed oblivious to the irony, amplified further by the 10 or so chauffeur-driven Bentleys right next to the shop windows.”