The First Balenciaga Haute Couture Show After 53 Years of Suspension Was Brought to Shanghai

November 24,2021

Balenciaga showcased its 50th Haute Couture collection in Shanghai for five days, starting from November 19, 2021. The event was significant both for Balenciaga and the Chinese market for the following reasons:

  • For the first time, Balenciaga reintroduced its Haute Couture collection since 1968 when its founder Cristóbal Balenciaga left fashion industry;
  • This is Creative Director Demna Gvasalia’s first Couture show since he assumed the role in 2015;
  • It was the first time that Balenciaga organized a large-scale event in Shanghai and presented its 2021 Haute Couture collection outside the first stop—Paris;
  • The event was organised almost entirely by Balenciaga’s team in China.

How Did Demna Gvasalia Design Contemporary Haute Couture?

On July 7, 2021, Balenciaga revealed its 50th Haute Couture collection during Paris Fashion Week.

As an homage to the Maison’s founder Cristóbal Balenciaga, 63 looks on amateur models were on display in the music-free Paris showroom blanketed in white drapes to highlight the creative expression of the design.

Demna Gvasalia adopted contemporary concepts in design while breaking aesthetic tropes as evidenced by items like jeans, pyjamas, hourglass jackets and so on. To him, couture garment is not just something you wear only once to a red carpet event or grandiose occasion but part of our day-to-day wardrobe.

In an interview in October 2021, Demna Gvasalia said that: “Couture is the most sustainable way of consuming.” He walked the walk when designing and manufacturing fashion items. For instance, leather pants and skirts were shaped from croc-embossed calf skin to avoid using precious genuine crocodile skin.

A Unique Event for the Chinese Market

Last November, Balenciaga took its Haute Couture collection to Shanghai after its debut in Paris. The Maison not only replicated iconic elements displayed in Paris but also launched events tailor-made for the Chinese market.

Demna Gvasalia created an exclusive look produced by embroidery atelier Maison Lesage for the Shanghai show (as seen below).

Nineteen handmade invisible mannequins showcasing the collection were equally spaced around the showroom, appearing to float in a vast circular showroom. An additional 11 looks from the collection were displayed in a bespoke couture dressing suite built along the bank of the adjacent the Huangpu River to reinvent the tradition Haute Couture experience. The space is comprised of a salon for guests to enjoy the Maison’s one-of-one pieces, a secluded podium for taking measurements for custom garments and private changing areas.

Designed by a Berlin-based architecture studio, the showroom was draped in cream-hued drapes to mimic the solemnness of museum or theatre. Replicas of salon furniture used in Balenciaga's first couture shows in 1930s Paris filled the space, while mirrors were placed in openings between the curtains to infinitely reflect the rooms they occupied.

Annual Revenue Exceeded 1 Billion Euros, Balenciaga Unveiled Its First Concept Store Worldwide in China

There’s no doubt that China is one of the core markets of Balenciaga. In November, Balenciaga launched the first retail concept store worldwide at IAPM mall in Shanghai. It is also the brand’s largest store in China.

The two-story store at IAPM that spans 810 square metres boasts a rough industrial style. To celebrate the opening, Balenciaga invited artists to create two original artworks under the theme “Upcycle.” Furthermore, the new store also houses a pop-up space that carries the Balenciaga Hacker Project that was launched on November 15th. The Hacker Project reinterprets iconic elements of Gucci, another Kering-owned luxury brand.

Balenciaga owns 74 Hacker Project pop-up stores globally, among which 14 are located in malls in China, including Shanghai IAPM, Taikoo Li Sanlitun in Beijing, SKP Beijing, the Mixc Shenzhen, Hangzhou YINTAI in77, Heartland 66 in Wuhan, Changsha IFS and so on.

In October, Kering revealed that Balenciaga’s annual revenue exceeded 1 billion euros which was roughly the same as Bottega Veneta’s. Furthermore, the revenue was generated when the brand still mainly relied on multi-brand retailers and e-commerce to distribute its products.

Jean-Marc Duplaix, the CFO of Kering, said that, Balenciaga became less dependent on capitalising on sports shoes and casual wear, while sales of dress shoes, ready-to-wear and leather goods grew. He believed that the 50th Haute Couture collection by Demna Gvasalia had played an important role in raising brand awareness. Apparently, the Shanghai Couture show increased the brand’s share of voice in China and built brand awareness among its target audience.

| Photo Credit: Balenciaga

| Writer: Chloe Zuo


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