Renowned fashion house Balenciaga has an impressive history and remains relevant in many genres of fashion, but is currently in a relatively tumultuous situation. The company, owned by holding company Kering, will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding within the next few years, and is undergoing a creative shift while dealing with financial pressure.
Last year, the brand took on Vetements founder Demna Gvasalia as creative director and his designs have been generally well-received, the large, structured outerwear and exaggerated shoulders contributing to a bold and distinct aesthetic. At the same time, other Kering brands, such as Gucci, have been reporting impressive sales growth numbers that Balenciaga has not been able to match.
Continuing the game of musical chairs that fashion executives have been playing in recent years, Balenciaga announced late last month that Cédric Charbit will be the company’s new CEO. His predecessor, Isabelle Guichot, has been with Balenciaga for nearly a decade and is moving on to another role at Kering. Charbit, though, is no outsider—his last role was executive vice president of product and marketing at fellow Kering brand Yves Saint Laurent.
The company cites international growth as the main goal for Charbit’s time at Balenciaga. Aiming for that makes a lot of sense in terms of timing; with its centennial approaching, a surge in sales for Balenciaga that lasts through the holidays would send a clear message that the company still holds an important position in the industry and can maintain its influence in its second century.
Charbit’s best course of action, though, might be to play off the brand’s newfound strengths and to pursue that growth without interfering with Gvasalia’s taking the brand in a new direction. Nearly a hundred years old, the house has an established image of luxury and high fashion that puts it in competition with more well-known, traditional, high-end brands like Gucci. To some extent, Balenciaga is rougher and has more attitude than other brands in its price range, and putting an industry disruptor at the creative helm is a great way to capitalize on that quality.
Certain Balenciaga pieces, like the high-top Arena sneakers or the double rider style leather jackets, have become footholds for the company in popular street fashion. If the brand can continue to push on that market by emphasizing its edginess as well as its luxe heritage, the growth that Charbit seeks should be well within reach.
Have you seen any of the Balenciaga collections from the past year? What did you think? Let’s chat here or on Twitter @BillChangNY