Balenciaga after the storm


Demna, artistic director of Balenciaga, on March 5, 2023, in Paris.

Saturday March 4, around 11 p.m. While Paris fashion week is in full swing, guests have only just learned that the Balenciaga fashion show, scheduled for the next day at 11:30 a.m., will be held at 99, rue de Rivoli. Keeping the address of a show secret for so long has not happened since the 2015 attacks in the capital. At the appointed time, on Sunday morning, a slight tension surrounds the event. In and around the Carrousel du Louvre, security has been reinforced. The organizers fear fanatical outbursts.

All professionals are at the rendezvous of the most awaited fashion show of the week, curious to discover what will be offered by the brand which has just experienced an unprecedented scandal, particularly in Anglo-Saxon countries. It is obviously not, this time, in a position to outbid the provocation. What form will then take, and above all what impression will this show, which we already designate as that of “redemption”, leave?

Two days before D-Day, Demna Gvasalia (who now calls herself by her first name), artistic director of Balenciaga since 2015, gives us some answers during an interview at the headquarters of the Parisian brand. This collection of course evolved in December, but he has been working on it for six months already. She deploys all the facets of the creativity of which he is capable in this house. This is not a summary because I don’t like it, he said. More like a stage in my evolution that weaves a link between what makes my style specific and a certain beauty, a classic, elegant and almost romantic side, that people did not associate with my work before we relaunched the high fashion. »

Contrasting results and first comments

Fashion brand among the most prescriptive in the luxury industry, Balenciaga then tries to get out of more than three months of storm. Its CEO, Cédric Charbit, its artistic director, Demna, and all the teams have faced an avalanche of abusive comments on the Internet and in certain media, accusing them of advocating pedocrime, following the spread of questionable interpretations and manipulation of facts concerning two campaigns. The label of the Kering group, owned by François-Henri Pinault, has suffered calls for a boycott, with an effect on sales that cannot be measured, the figures remaining confidential.

Backstage at the Balenciaga fashion show, at the Carrousel du Louvre, on March 5, 2023.

In its 2022 results published on February 15, the Kering group announces an increase in annual turnover of 15%, to more than 20 billion euros. But it also evokes a negative fourth quarter (- 2% of total sales). Impossible to attribute this slowdown to the controversy around Balenciaga which erupted at the end of November, because other factors may come into play: at the same time Gucci, the group’s financial engine, announced the sudden departure of its star designer , Alessandro Michele. And no one can predict the short and medium term repercussions of the Balenciaga case, which calls for the right to move on. We are talking about a textbook case, which will certainly be studied in a few years, to try to understand what is still disconcerting, both in the genesis of the scandal and in its management.

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