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Avant-garde and nonconformist: Balenciaga's rise to reign supreme in the fashion world

Here's how Balenciaga rose to become the brand of the year

Published: Dec 25, 2021 07:48:30 AM IST
Updated: Jul 11, 2022 06:22:54 PM IST

Avant-garde and nonconformist: Balenciaga's rise to reign supreme in the fashion worldRihanna and A$AP Rocky attend The 2021 Met Gala Celebrating In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021 in New York City.  
Image: Theo Wargo/Getty Images/AFP 

Now the world's most popular fashion house, according to the fashion search platform Lyst, Balenciaga hasn't stopped making the news this year with ideas that seem each more ingenious and avant-garde than the next. From the Simpsons to the metaverse to the brand's ubiquitous red carpet presence at the prestigious MET Gala, here's how Balenciaga rose to become the brand of the year.

Balenciaga seems to draw as much fascination as criticism, thanks largely to a marketing strategy that can only be described as bold—if not totally crazy. Still, the fashion house is the talk of the whole world, it seems, to the point of becoming the most popular brand in the latest Lyst* report on the top trends and brands in the third quarter of 2021. The brand, helmed by Georgian designer and Vetements founder Demna Gvasalia has risen five places in just a few months to challenge Gucci, another brand particularly popular with Gen Z, and which was previously the ranking's undisputed leader.

Fortnite, The Simpsons, Kanye West

Although Balenciaga has always been a brand that's appreciated by the public, its popularity is now evidently growing by the day. This rise was no-doubt spurred by the brand's great return to haute couture last July—after about half a century's absence—and has continued to gain momentum since the fall, with projects each more audacious than the next. At the end of September, the fashion house sent social media wild by announcing a collaboration with "Fortnite," one of the world's most popular video games, offering players the possibility to get virtual Balenciaga outfits and fashion accessories, and, by extension, confirming the growing interest of luxury houses in Gen Z.

A few days later, the French fashion house struck again. While presenting its spring-summer 2022 collection at Paris Fashion Week, the brand dropped a never-before-seen episode of "The Simpsons," turning Marge, Homer, Bart, Lisa and the rest of the gang into ambassadors for its latest looks. It was the luxury world making an incursion into pop culture—or vice versa—and an initiative that landed with full impact. And this mix of genres and cultures is an integral part of Balenciaga's winning strategy. Indeed, the brand has understood that Gen Z—the new prime target for luxury houses—wants neither pigeonholes nor stereotypes.

As if to seal its success, it now seems like a plethora of celebrities swear only by Balenciaga—or almost. From Kim Kardashian to Rihanna to Kanye West—or Ye by his new name—the fashion house can count on a five-star cast to showcase its outfits. The success of the brand at the last MET Gala shows that Balenciaga is all over the red carpet. And that's not to mention Balenciaga's collab with the same Kanye "Ye" West during the release of "Donda." These gambles may seem crazy at first glance, but they're winning on all fronts, since the luxury house has evidently never been so popular.

Looking to 2022

And this domination looks likely to last into 2022. While the luxury label does not currently feature on the haute couture calendar—neither in physical nor digital form—there's always a chance that Demna Gvasalia might come up with some new and even more innovative format. The brand also recently announced, during a conference for Business of Fashion, that it was setting up a unit entirely dedicated to the metaverse, the luxury sector's new playground. Nothing more has been said about the project, but there's every chance that Balenciaga is currently working on initiatives that are sure to be the talk of the fashion world.

* Lyst analyzed the online behavior of its 150 million consumers who search, browse and purchase fashion items from 17,000 brands and online stores. The Lyst Index methodology takes into account consumer behavior on the platform, including conversion and sale rates. The study also takes into account Google searches, social media mentions, and global engagement statistics over a three-month period.

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