Balenciaga Returns to Original Headquarters With Expanded Presence – WWD

PARIS Balenciaga is returning to its original headquarters. The brand is doubling the size of its couture salons at 10 Avenue George V in Paris, adding new offices and commemorating the occasion with a plaque on the façade of the building explaining its historic significance.

Guests at the house’s fall 2023 haute couture show on July 5 got an early peek at the expanded premises, which grew from the original salons to neighboring number 12.

The spaces added to the combined building’s six levels will house creative director Demna and his teams, in addition to the Balenciaga couture and ready-to-wear ateliers, the house said in a statement shared exclusively with WWD.

The spaces will feature high-tech updates and modern touches such as dark, smoked glass partitions, and should be ready by the end of this year or in early 2024.

Balenciaga took advantage of the renovation to shoot its winter 2023 advertising campaign, which shows actress Isabelle Huppert and models posing against drywall and building materials. Construction workers can be glimpsed in the accompanying video.

Founder Cristóbal Balenciaga established his house at 10 Avenue George V in 1937 and lived, worked and held collection presentations there until his retirement in 1968. He even named his first fragrance, Le Dix, after the place.

“This address was extremely important to him and is iconic to us,” Cédric Charbit, chief executive officer of Balenciaga, said in a statement.

Balenciaga revived the address in 2021 when Demna presented his first couture collection in the newly restored salons. Last year it opened a street-level Balenciaga Couture Store downstairs offering limited-edition clothes, shoes, accessories and high-tech objects.

“In July 2023, Balenciaga expanded the couture salon, doubling it in size to put couture at scale as couture and creativity are our fundamentals,” said Charbit.

“The relocation of our headquarters with couture and creative functions to our original address is a homecoming reuniting the past and present that is not only a physical expansion but also an expansion of the house’s legacy and ateliers. I’m proud of this important milestone and historical moment for Balenciaga,” the executive added.

Charbit and corporate functions will be based in separate renovated headquarters at 16-18 Rue Vaneau. In the meantime, some members of the Balenciaga team continue to work from their prior headquarters, shared with parent company Kering, in the former Laennec hospital dating back to the 17th century.

Balenciaga is gradually resuming a normal calendar of campaigns and announcements following the release last fall of two separate campaigns that sparked outrage on social media, prompting apologies from Charbit and Demna. Huppert, who appeared in one of the controversial ads, has not commented on the furor and walked in the recent couture show.  

The winter 2023 images were shot by Brooklyn-based photographer Tyler Mitchell, best known for his photo of Beyoncé for the cover of U.S. Vogue. Alongside Huppert and female model Vittoria Ceretti, the ads feature male models Arthur del Beato, Nyawurh Chuol, Yura Nakano and Khadim Sock.  

The collection includes deconstructed tailoring, with signature pieces such as tracksuits, denim and leather jackets, suits and jeans reinvented in hybrid versions. They are complemented by dressier items including pleated blouses with exaggerated shoulders, lace evening gowns and faux-mink coats.

Among the accessories in the fall lineup are the Monaco bag line, the Anatomic and Biker boot styles, the 3XL sock shoe, the Flex pump and Fennec and Speed eyewear.

Kering, which does not break out revenues for the brand, reported that like-for-like sales at its “other houses” division — which includes Balenciaga alongside Alexander McQueen, Brioni and several jewelry brands — were down 9 percent in the first quarter, following a 4 percent drop in the fourth quarter, when sales were hit by the advertising scandal.

While Balenciaga powered ahead in Asia-Pacific, it remained impacted in the U.S., U.K. and Middle East during the first three months of the year.

“In continental Europe, we start to see a normalization and we are positive again,” said Kering chief financial officer Jean-Marc Duplaix, anticipating that the brand would probably not regain its footing completely until the second half. Kering is due to publish its second-quarter results on July 27.

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