Balenciaga to reintroduce couture?

Now that it has been made official that Alexander Wang is the new creative director at Balenciaga, the question to now ask is.. what will Wang bring to the brand?

Speaking to WWD , François-Henri Pinault, the CEO of Balenciaga’s parent company PPR, has hinted that Balenciaga could be about to move into couture once again.

“(Wang) has a very strong talent not only when it comes to accessible product, but his talent could also be adapted for couture at Balenciaga. It will be a big challenge for him,” said Pinault as he talked about what Wang will bring to the label.

Pinault also stressed in the interview that Balenciaga isn’t about to undergo any extreme changes at the hands of Wang. “We don’t intend to change. It’s not a rupture. We plan to continue to build on what has been built by Nicolas. We needed someone who was capable of coping with that. So that is what is at stake,” he said.

The house of Balenciaga ceased making couture in 1968 when it was closed by its founder Cristóbal Balenciaga. It was then re-opened in 1986 as a high-fashion ready-to-wear label.

Pinault said of Wang’s hiring - “We want to continue to build. We decided that with Nicolas (Ghesquière) it was time to separate our path. After 15 years, it was quite a noble decision. We were looking at who could take on the helm for the brand’s creative. The way we do it we really spent time understanding who is, not what is, the brand — the human being. And we wanted to really continue what has been built by Nicolas. Alexander Wang is young and he has a very universal culture. He is American with Chinese roots. His family is based in Shanghai. He has a very strong talent not only when it comes to accessible product, but his talent could also be adapted for couture at Balenciaga. It will be a big challenge for him. I like that he’s young and based in New York, so we will have more exposure of the brand worldwide. Alexander has this wonderful contemporary brand under his own name and this has nothing to do with Balenciaga. We will not change anything in the positioning (of the Balenciaga brand). We have spent a lot of time determining where the brand is and where we want to stay in terms of being very modern and avant-garde, but still being influenced by the street. Nicolas was one of the best at this.”

Pinault also spoke of the threat of online shopping - “If you look at (online) sales, it’s not very big, maybe 2 or 3 per cent. But one customer in five on average will go online before going into stores. So the influence of the online channel on the offline channel is great. You can be a small brand or a big brand like Gucci, but you cannot offer your customers an experience in your stores that is completely different from what you offer them online. This is not acceptable. The next step will be to transform the e-commerce experience of our brands into the luxury experiences as we do in our stores.”

As we write this on Christmas Eve, we wish all of our readers a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and we will be back on January 2nd.

By Cassandra Murnieks

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