PARIS Chinese customers were unable to make it to Paris for Balenciaga’s triumphant return to haute couture in July. Instead, the house brought its most exclusive designs to Shanghai for a five-day event that kicked off on Friday.

This is the first time that Balenciaga has organized an event in mainland China, and also the first time that the couture collection has been presented outside of Paris, reflecting the strategic importance of the territory, where Balenciaga has 39 stores and a cult among the fashionistas. conscious consumers, according to CEO Cédric Charbit.

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“It’s a strong signal,” he told WWD in an exclusive interview. “China’s influence is everywhere – aesthetically, economically, culturally and in fashion – so it was important for us to be present in this market at the top of the pyramid in terms of Balenciaga’s offering.

The brand is soaring after setting a daily record for worldwide sales last Monday for the launch of its Hacker Project, with pieces that reinterpret the codes of the Gucci brand owned by Kering. The capsule collection was sold in 14 pop-ups in mainland China, seeing strong sales in Beijing, Chengdu and Wuhan.

Due to ongoing travel restrictions linked to the coronavirus pandemic, neither Charbit nor Creative Director Demna Gvasalia were able to attend the sewing presentation at the Tank Shanghai Museum.

“As China cannot travel to Europe either, I felt it was our duty to bring Balenciaga’s 50th couture collection there,” said the designer, who said he wanted to be known only by his first name, in a press release. declaration.

“I am proud to share with China this very important moment celebrating the culture, craftsmanship and heritage of Balenciaga in an exhibition presenting my first couture collection,” he added.

Charbit noted that with less than 15 years of presence in the market, Balenciaga is a newcomer to China, which means that its communications have mainly focused on the artistic vision of Demna, who arrived in late 2015.

The Balenciaga sewing installation at the Tank Shanghai museum.

The brand is now ready to talk about its 104 year history. The museum’s invitation-only exhibit featured an environment inspired by Balenciaga’s recently restored historic salon and couture studio at 10 avenue George V in Paris: think beige curtains, pale rugs, and sculptural furnishings.

In a spectacular circular exhibition space, 18 looks from the collection presented in July were displayed alongside an outfit created exclusively for the event. Eleven other looks can be found in a bespoke walk-in closet consisting of a living room for clients to see the pieces; a walled podium for taking measurements and a cloakroom.

“The set design is highly experiential and immersive, very monumental and spectacular, but also very intimate,” said Charbit. “The importance of Balenciaga in China is such today that it is important to rethink the brand in its global context, encompassing both the contemporary aspect, but also our origins.

While refusing to release figures, the executive said the Chinese market was on fire.

“This is the country that has experienced the strongest growth at Balenciaga since my arrival,” said Charbit, which took over in 2016. “It is a leading market both in terms of size and turnover. , but also from a qualitative point of view. Our community is extremely sophisticated. It is the country which has the highest share of ready-to-wear.

Balenciaga has chosen China to unveil the first store in the world to present its new retail concept. The two-story flagship of the IAPM Mall in Shanghai, covering more than 7,500 square feet, offers women’s and men’s ready-to-wear, accessories, footwear and children’s clothing.

The Pia Camil installation in the Balenciaga store of the IAPM shopping center in Shanghai.

The Pia Camil installation in the Balenciaga boutique of the IAPM shopping center in Shanghai.

“This is our largest store in China,” said Charbit, who praised its local teams for their ability to execute the more advanced aspects of the brand strategy.

“This concept is very interesting because it is both extremely raw and at the same time very luxurious,” he said of the store’s design, which mixes raw concrete, exposed ceilings and lighting strips. fluorescent with elegant displays and a striking red installation by the artist. Pia Camil.

“Since Demna and I arrived, I have seen Chinese audiences instantly connect to her creative vision. I found it remarkable to see the level of sophistication of the clientele, its link with ready-to-wear and its response to the unconventional and unique side of our creative proposition, ”he added. “Balenciaga’s performance in China is dazzling.

After increasing its store network from seven to 39 in five years, the brand will now focus on strengthening its presence by optimizing the size and location of its stores. With two days of couture preview and three days of fittings with one-on-one appointments, the Shanghai event is designed to deepen the brand’s relationship with its best customers.

Charbit said the haute couture collection for women and men, the first since founder Cristóbal Balenciaga retired 53 years ago, immediately resonated with the brand’s customers around the world.

“We have seen extremely strong interest from men and women of all ages, and quite unexpectedly, both a classic couture clientele but also celebrities and collectors,” he said. “People are interested in our heritage and our craftsmanship, but also that this comeback is historic, so anyone interested in fashion and its history understands the importance of this presentation.

The Balenciaga tailoring team in Paris trained experts in Shanghai to take customer measurements and explain the history of each outfit. “It’s extraordinary what we can transmit from a distance. It was all done by video call, ”Charbit said. “The know-how and the ability to understand each other was quite natural.

The Balenciaga sewing installation at the Tank Shanghai museum.

The Balenciaga sewing installation at the Tank Shanghai museum.


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