No stopping Balenciaga.
It’s been a game-changing couple of years for the iconic Spanish fashion house Balenciaga, which celebrates its 100th birthday next year. Having long-since made a lasting mark on the world of luxury fashion with their self-described “elevated streetwear”, which has been credited for bringing a youthful, edgy appeal to a mass audience, the French-owned behemoth has ambitious plans to up their winning streak to a whole other level in the year ahead.
Balenciaga spent much of its life along the lines of similar brands such as Kenzo, Chanel, Dior, and Armani in terms of appeal, in that their eye-catching pieces were associated with high fashion and almost-exclusively popular with socialites and even first ladies (most famously Jackie Kennedy, who famously caused President JFK some serious headaches over her high bills from their Paris atelier back in the 50s). Their branching out into more youthful, colourful, ready-to-wear pieces started in earnest back in the 1980s with the launch of their quintessentially 80s ‘Le Dix’ line, featuring some items we’d rather forget, such as leg-warmers and jean jackets, which nonetheless set the tone for Balenciaga’s new direction as a fresh, on-trend fashion house.
Despite having varying levels of success with their daring new approach to branding in the following decades, the last couple of years, in particular, have seen Balenciaga making serious steps towards dominating the rapidly growing market for fresh, accessible, street-ready luxury menswear, which other brands are fighting tooth and nail to corner. Menswear is a relatively new element of their overall collection but one that is growing fast and seemingly on track to overtake womenswear in terms of sales and popularity in the near future.
For anyone who has been following men’s fashion over the past five years, it has been impossible to ignore the gains that brands such as Balenciaga have made in casual men’s footwear, with their game-changing sneakers, such as the sporty Triple S Trainer and the eye-popping Race Runner, both of which sold out almost immediately upon their release a few months back. It’s no coincidence that Balenciaga would start focusing so much of their creative energy on men’s footwear at the same time that houses such as Givenchy, Balmain, and Prada are relentlessly releasing new sneaker lines in the race to capture the market but the year ahead holds signs that Balenciaga is in it to win it.
Balenciaga sneakers and streetwear have not only been popping up on the Instagram feeds and paparazzi spreads of millennial style icons such as A$AP Rocky, Zain and Migos, but also in the wardrobes of a growing cohort of fashion-conscious young men who are willing to invest in the relatively affordable style, comfort, and, above all, status that releases such as Triple S are offering. The brand was recently cited as being one of the top performers of the past year on luxury online fashion retailer Net-a-Porter (up considerably from the year before), and, in November last year, the Lyst Index crowned it as the hottest-selling brand for the whole of 2017.
Their strong millennial appeal is reflected in the disproportionate number of online sales, which have largely fuelled what newly-appointed creative director Cédric Charbit has described as Balenciaga’s best year ever. More and more fashion houses are shifting an increasing proportion of their activity online to satiate market demand – not surprising given that the online market for high fashion grew by over 17% in the U.K. in 2017 alone. In order to keep up with changing spending habits, a number of brands have also started accepting payment in growing cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.
In 2014, fashion retailer showroomprive.com was briefly the largest company in Europe to accept bitcoin for goods. However, fashion giants aren’t alone in keeping up with these trends, with department stores, food vendors, and even online casinos like bitcasino.io now accepting Bitcoin. The currency has a long-standing relationship with the latter industry, owing to a few unique quirks; bitcasino can offer provably fair odds when operating in bitcoin, as well as enhanced security.
Balenciaga is keenly aware of these seismic changes taking place online, and has been upping their own efforts to ramp up digital sales, whilst also actively courting popular Intsta-famous style icons such as those mentioned above in a concerted effort to maximise their brand appeal with the new generation of consumers, increasingly made up of men.
Charbit was appointed Balenciaga’s chief executive only a few months back. He was previously tasked with growing Yves Saint Laurent into one of the biggest brands going and his plans for Balenciaga are even more ambitious. He recently told the Financial Times about his plans for Balenciaga to become “a billion-dollar company” in 2018, and the launch of their acclaimed men’s line last year was an instrumental part of this strategy, with the brand now seen as crucial to dominating the market.
Later on this year, just in time for the FW2018 releases, they’re planning on merging the men’s and women’s collections entirely, a bold move for a company that has specialised solely in women’s fashion for the vast majority of the past century. They’re brought on a formidable clique of hyper-talented star designers, new kids on the block who have been making a splash with inventive, highly original menswear and are leading the headlong march toward 2018 being the year for men’s fashion.
Expect more releases of footwear such a the Triple S, which seemingly everyone is trying to get their hands on, as well as plenty of fresh streetwear that we’re destined to see being worn on the social media feeds of male fashion’s hottest celebrities.