Balenciaga's Redemption Show May Have Had a Silver Lining
Plus more highlights from Paris Fashion Week.
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Understanding Balenciaga designer Demna’s significance in corporate fashion is impossible without looking at the money. Parent company Kering doesn’t break out the brand’s earnings in financial reports. But here’s a chart that illustrates revenue over the last eight years, based on reported estimates (a fuller explanation of these figures is at the bottom of this story*):
If the first bar showing revenue of $390 million in 2015 seems low to you, know that in 2001, the New York Times reported Balenciaga’s 2000 revenue was “only $17.3 million, mostly in fragrance, and a mere $1.07 million net profit.” (Before Demna took over design in late 2015, Alexander Wang served as creative director. Wang took over from Nicolas Ghesquière, now at Louis Vuitton, in 2012.)
Extraordinary revenue gains were seen prior to Demna, but his vision has turned the brand into a juggernaut that sells every day items like sneakers, purses, and logo hoodies and T-shirts at wild mark-ups. Many hoodies cost more than $1,000 a piece, some around $2,000, and still others more than $3,000. Popular sneakers are more than $1,000. The Ts start at around $500.
These signatures were not a part of Balenciaga’s brand image until Demna came along. The Paris Fashion Week show that walked days ago, however, removed some of these highly identifiable items, while gently attempting to launch new ones. This strategy has been framed by the press as a mea culpa of sorts following fourth quarter scandals involving poorly conceived ad campaigns and cutting ties with Kanye West. Indeed, Demna told Vogue last month, “The provocative aspect of my work often got misinterpreted and misunderstood, and I no longer feel like applying it to my designs.”
The resulting show felt like Demna’s Balenciaga for the inconspicuous consumption era.