Balenciaga, a giant in the era of big entertainment fashion

A French luxury brand, Balenciaga has been in the closet of Grace Kelly and Jacqueline Kennedy. Today, Balenciaga has decided to develop a close relationship with the Kardashians and Bitcoin: “We have to keep up with the times and modern symbols.

Balenciaga is as French as a snail and has a strong French identity as well as an understanding of American pop culture. Just one year ago, for the 105th anniversary of the brand, Balenciaga released an officially licensed episode of The Simpsons, turning the longest-running American cartoon into a ten-minute fashion show. The ten-minute clip has not only garnered more than 10 million views on YouTube, it even has its own Wikipedia page. Last October, Meta, the parent company of Facebook, tweeted at Balenciaga to define a “meta-universe dress code” and more recently, Kim Kardashian wore a glittering customized dress to the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

In an interview in the United States this month, Balenciaga CEO Cédric Charbit acknowledged and said, “We’re combining fashion and entertainment? Yes.” Cédric Charbit, 45, is a Frenchman who joined Balenciaga in 2016 from Saint Laurent, where he was executive vice president of product marketing, and now sits on the board of Balenciaga’s parent company, Kering. He joined a year after Georgian-born designer Demna, and managed to transform the house’s iconic bias-cut floral dresses into the popular “popsicle” shoe.One of Mr. Charbit’s first trips after becoming CEO was to the U.S., where, he said, “the American consumer saw Demna’s vision and what he was doing for Balenciaga, and they were the first to embrace the style.”

Today, the U.S. is Balenciaga’s fastest-growing market, and in May, Balenciaga stepped out of Paris for the first time to present a full collection in New York. Immediately after the show, the brand launched a limited-edition collection online and at its Madison Avenue flagship store. It was the idea of Demna, the current creative director, but Mr. Charbit said he was instantly on board, “We discussed every detail, and we worked out every strategy together.” The U.S. market is already extremely fertile ground for luxury brands – so much so that Louis Vuitton and Dior held fashion shows in Southern California last week, sparking an instant frenzy. Bank of America analysts said that even with inflationary headwinds and stock market turmoil, luxury spending rose 8 percent year-on-year in April.
Kering doesn’t release financial results for its brands, but analysts think annual sales could be well over 2 billion euros, Mr. Charbit said, adding that overall, “Balenciaga will attract a new audience if we continue on this path. He believes that the brand’s customer base is largely focused on the “ultra-high-net-worth” segment (Balenciaga’s sweatshirts and pants can cost up to $995 and $1,450, respectively, which is significantly more than other brands’ prices). According to UBS in 2018, “ultra-high-net-worth” is defined as having a net worth starting at $30 million.

Balenciaga sells fashion that is not without controversy. In the past, it has featured wide, elephant-legged, worn-in denim (as seen by Justin Bieber in a recent ad campaign), high-necked dresses paired with pre-attached gloves, gothic dishwashing gloves, and $650 “tight T-shirts,” which are literally tight, leaving no extra room for the body. no extra room for the body.

  • Balenciaga’s thumbs-in-the-eye marketing is working like a charm as the well-heeled consumer of high fashion changes hands. Not everyone wants to fight for the C-suite or dress tastefully for skiing in Colorado. Instead, they favor an unfettered, more brand-conscious sense of style. Balenciaga’s signature loose knitwear with logos, spongy, thick-soled sneakers and utilitarian sweatpants are just the thing for this style.From June, payments in Bitcoin and Ethereum will be accepted on Balenciaga’s website and in selected boutiques. “We should keep up with the times.” Mr. Charbit’s interview with the WSJ comes at a time when digital currency assets have taken a big dive. But he didn’t waver from his promise, downplaying the fact that it was a more “long-term” plan. With Charbit and Demna at the helm, the venerable French fashion house has entered a new online arena – in December 2021, it announced that it would be incubating a meta-universe team. Mr. Charbit wouldn’t be more specific, saying that “the meta-universe is like a digital currency,” he said. Mr. Charbit, who did not want to be specific about his plans, described the “metaverse as a country” and saw it as a business opportunity with a clear profit-and-loss benchmark.Big silhouettes and high-concept fashion remain at the core of the brand. Last July, Demna relaunched its couture collection. At a time when haute couture is no longer the brand’s main cash cow, it has crystallized Balenciaga’s artistic values by reviving the craftsmanship of the brand’s founder, Cristobal Balenciaga. In response to the controversy surrounding the brand’s selection of artists to collaborate with, such as Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber, Mr. Charbit emphasized that Balenciaga has a long tradition of working with artists. In the past, the brand’s founder has created dresses for Grace Kelly and Jacqueline Kennedy, he said, adding, “Modern brands need to be in sync with modern icons, too.” Even when nearly all offline fashion shows were forced to be canceled during the epidemic, Mr. Charbit found value in the adversity. He said, “Are fashion shows held for the sake of holding them? I don’t agree with that. I think we should make the fashion show a performance.”
    To the passive observer, Demna’s designs for Balenciaga are often categorized as “scandalous”. “I would like to ask who defines ugly as ugly?” Mr. Charbit, who wore a white T-shirt and a smart black sport coat, said, “Many Balenciaga pieces, including the tattered sneakers, start out as shocking to the public, but they are snapped up by a clientele that believes in the brand’s bold approach.” “With Balenciaga, trying to please everyone doesn’t work,” Mr. Charbit said. Mr. Charbit said, “We need to break the rules of ‘aesthetics’.”

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