Balenciaga’s stellar reputation has rarely wavered in its 70-year history, with legendary designers (Alexander Wang, Nicholas Ghesquière) always at the helm. But it’s long languished as a traditional luxury label, untouched by the cool, millennial market bar a brief early 2000’s obsession with the of-the-moment City tote. But 2017 saw a renaissance for the brand, with online search traffic increasing by 50% by year end, and street style stars from Loulou de Saison to Charlotte Groeneveld helping it achieve cult status at Fashion Week. Owner Kering also reported double digit growth, describing ‘sharp acceleration’ for the label in the year’s final quarter.
So how to explain the sudden popularity? All signs point to Creative Director Demna Gvasalia, the Georgian It boy who heads up both the Parisian label and his own zeitgeisty, street wear brand, Vetements. The latter’s £850 sweat pants, Kardashian-approved oversized hoodies and advent sock boots put the designer firmly on the map in 2016, and by appointing the designer, Balenciaga officially signed themselves up to what the Business of Fashion has coined ‘‘the Demna-effect’.
The Gvasalia tenure has already entailed razor sharp, bright coloured kitten heels, asymmetric denim jackets, thigh-high pink lurex boots, plastic slogan totes – these aren’t exactly the pieces you’d imagine wooing the fashion circuit. But much like Gucci before it, with surprising pattered, flared suiting and furry backless mules, the brand is shoving the unexpected into the mainstream. The designer is, alongside Virgil Abloh at Off-White and the duo behind Monse, redefining what women want to wear – the new fashion landscape features practicality, comfort and function. The designer recently told The Guardian ‘I don’t think elegance is relevant’ – glamour and polish is no longer the priority, thigh-high pink boots notwithstanding.
The brand may feel a little out there right now, but much like with Gucci, stylish girls are picking out the subtler pieces are making them work – think kitten heels with boyfriends and a knit, green sock boots with long coats and shirting, quirky bags with classic suits. Our advice? Ditch the loafers – make Balenciaga your next investment.
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