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PARIS — Could Balenciaga be facing a change in creative leadership?
Speculation is mounting in Paris that the fashion house, controlled by Kering, could part ways with Alexander Wang, hired in December 2012 as the successor to Nicolas Ghesquière, who exited after a stellar 15-year tenure and subsequently joined Louis Vuitton.
It is understood Wang is still under contract and preparing the next Balenciaga collection for Paris Fashion Week, scheduled for Sept. 29 to Oct. 7.
Spokeswomen for Kering and Wang would only say there are discussions between the designer and Balenciaga regarding the renewal of the contract.
The likelihood of an agreement could not immediately be learned.
As recently as last March, ahead of a fashion show attended by Lady Gaga, Balenciaga touted accelerating double-digit growth, with Wang telling WWD: “I feel we’re already a globally recognized house, and a top luxury leader. We’re well on our way.”
Wang and Balenciaga chief executive officer Isabelle Guichot had described a host of development plans for the company, citing men’s wear and knitwear among chief growth opportunities.
At the time, Guichot said the double-digit gains last year were fueled by “almost all categories, from retail and a very healthy wholesale business.” Balenciaga counts about 500 wholesale doors in the world.
More than half of company revenues stem from directly owned retail, a threshold reached last year, when it closed out the calendar with about 90 freestanding stores and shops-in-shop – a quantum leap from the three stores it had seven years ago.
Market sources estimate Balenciaga generates revenues north of 350 million euros, or $391.5 million at current exchange rates, and is profitable.
A designer in the edgy fashion mold of Ghesquière, but with a streetwise twist, Wang is one of the darlings of the American fashion scene with his music-scene buddies, groovy T-shirts, studded handbags and high-impact fashion shows.
Separately, sources said Wang has been quietly seeking an investor for his privately held namesake brand, and may feel tugged between responsibilities at both businesses.
In 2017, Balenciaga is to celebrate its centenary, an occasion the Prado in Madrid plans to mark with a major exhibition.