PPR SA (PP) named Alexander Wang creative director of its Balenciaga fashion and accessories brand to replace Nicholas Ghesquiere, who quit last month.
“Wang has responsibility for designing the brand’s women’s and men’s ready-to-wear and accessories collections, as well as for Balenciaga’s image,” PPR said today in an e-mailed statement. His appointment is immediate.
Ghesquiere left Balenciaga by mutual consent on Nov. 30 after 15 years at the Paris-based label. Wang, who has his own label, is known for sporty, urban designs. For spring 2013, he showed a black-and-white collection of long, short-sleeved shirts, shorts and revealing dresses. Wang will continue to run his own closely-held fashion house, PPR said.
The designer’s appointment may signal PPR wants to make Balenciaga more commercially relevant, according to Luca Solca, head of luxury goods research at Exane BNP Paribas in London.
While Balenciaga may attract more critical acclaim than other PPR brands such as Stella McCartney and Bottega Veneta, “the real question is how to turn potential consumer interest into sales,” said Solca by e-mail. “Wang seems to be the answer to this question. He is credited with the ability to capture the core traits of a brand and turn them into products that appeal to the street.”
PPR doesn’t break out Balenciaga’s results, grouping it with other luxury brands including Alexander McQueen, Boucheron and Stella McCartney. These labels and three others had combined sales of 738 million euros ($962 million) in 2011, accounting for 15 percent of PPR’s luxury revenue.
Balenciaga, founded by Cristobal Balenciaga in 1919 and established in Paris in 1936, “kept up a steady pace of growth in 2011,” posting a “very high sales increase for leather goods and gains in all of its markets,” PPR said in its 2011 reference document.
Still, the brand’s growth has been dwarfed by Bottega Veneta, which PPR also bought in 2001. At the time, Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga had combined revenue of less than 65 million euros, according to PPR Chief Executive Officer Francois-Henri Pinault. Last year, Bottega Veneta had sales of 683 million euros.
The designer “will use his creativity and his own research to reinterpret and immortalize the distinctive, modern and extremely innovative style imposed by Cristobal Balenciaga,” PPR CEO Francois-Henri Pinault said in the statement.
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