SHANGHAI — Balmain’s ongoing evolution away from a boutique brand in the hopes of becoming a big leagues fashion player will see the house harmonize its pricing globally over the next few years, Balmain’s chief executive officer Massimo Piombini revealed.
Speaking after the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in Shanghai, which featured designs from Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing, the ceo said Balmain will adjust its prices gradually over a three to four-year period to allow time for retail partners to absorb the impact.
“There are brands that did it in a much shorter period of time like Chanel, but the problem is Balmain still has 90 percent wholesale and 10 percent retail…when you control your distribution you can do it in a much shorter period of time,” he said. “You have to be careful not to penalize them because the margin head is important. We do it in this way that they can absorb step by step.”
After seven years designing Balmain, Rousteing is on a bit of a streak when it comes to collaborations. The Victoria’s Secret collection is the first designer partnership the lingerie brand has done but is Rousteing’s third major collaboration this year. Earlier, Balmain partnered with Beats By Dre to produce headphones and with L’Oréal for a lipstick range.
The Victoria’s Secret looks, which Rousteing described as “rock ‘n’ roll, sexy glamor punk”, opened the show with a live performance from Harry Styles.
While the two brands occupy very opposite ends of the fashion spectrum, the “Balmain Army” and Victoria’s Secret “Angels” both exude an Amazonian-like aesthetic, and Victoria’s Secret, which counts 58 million Instagram followers, has the kind of global exposure Balmain craves.
Rousteing relaunched accessories for the house at the start of this year, but he rejected the notion that Balmain proper would expand into lingerie.
“I have a lot of things I want to do at Balmain and lingerie is not my priority,” Rousteing said.
“I’m looking for timeless,” he elaborated. “This is another challenge for me. Because I am going to really try to make sure that Balmain in 100 years, you will remember. Obviously, I am pushing my accessories that are really important right now. Balmain is such an incredible luxury French brand, we have a chance now to have bags and shoes.”
The designer had glowing words for the Qatari royal family, who took control of the brand via their investment arm Mayhoola last year and installed Piombini as ceo in April, succeeding Emmanuel Diemoz.
“Since Mayhoola arrived, I feel so blessed and happy because they believe in me so much,” he said. “They love my taste and the way that I believe in my vision and they give me so much freedom to be who I am. The fact that I have the chance to open more stores means I get to travel a lot more now, which means I am more inspired. There is a lot of ambition. I am an ambitious person as well so we get along really well.”
No part of the business seems to have been excluded from the changes. Balmain is growing its retail footprint, most recently opening a new store in Shanghai’s IFC mall, after making its debut in Los Angeles in July. Miami and Milan stores are planned for next year. A new IT system, and a new communications strategy that experiments with content-driven ideas and not only traditional advertising are all in the works.
“The previous management was managing the company to sell it. Then [Mayhoola] bought it and we joined, and we are really on the opposite side. We want to develop the brand and want to become a more important luxury player,” Piombini said. “Right now the brand is still relatively small.”
On the e-commerce front, Piombini said Balmain will choose an online partner within the next three months for China, a market which he believes the brand resonates especially well in.
“I don’t want to seem obvious,” Piombini said. “Everybody says Asia is important. Of course, Asia is important but I think — and this was particularly obvious when we did a store opening in IFC — Asian customers who love Balmain are perfect for the fit.
“They are very fit, let me say, they are skinny, very nice body shape and Balmain is a very sexy brand. You can put together these two elements and we can really have a competitive advantage in this market compared to other competitors who are not doing this product.”