By: Abby Walker
Olivier Rousteing, Balmain’s creative director, has been hinting that he wants to lower the brand’s prices and make it more accessible to more people. He told Women’s Wear Daily, “I’m pushing to put the prices down at Balmain… Now that I’m pretty well-established, I can push. Before I was the Balmain baby and now Balmain is my baby.” Despite its outrageous prices, the brand has gained a huge following and a lot of admiration over the years. Since Rousteing took over in 2011, the brand has seen a 40% increase in men’s sales.
There has been a huge push internally to achieve higher growth in sales; currently their market is small because their pieces are handcrafted and heavily embellished. The goal of lower prices is to make the brand increasingly more accessible to a younger audience. However, there is some concern among Balmain devotees that lower prices will cheapen the brand. There’s definitely an argument to be made for a smaller distribution channel allowing the brand to maintain its air of exclusivity, but if they don’t increase their customer base their sales won’t grow either.
Balmain is already testing out their fast-fashion appeal with the release of the Balmain x H&M collection. The retail frenzy set aflame by this launch was gifted its own hashtag of #Balmania. Similar to the Target x Lily collection, many people cleared out the store only to turn around and sell the collection on EBay and other secondhand retailers. The collection is almost completely sold out at H&M, which speaks to its popularity. Following this release, Roustieng is rumored to be releasing a line called “Blue Label” this winter that will be priced about 40-50% lower than full price.
While making the brand available to masses may prove beneficial for sales, the impact this will have on the brand’s reputation remains uncertain, especially among Balmain’s devoted followers. A more affordable version of the brand can just end up cheapening the overall image and destroying the exclusivity that makes Balmain so special. This is a common move among high-end retailers, like Michael Kors with Kors by Michael Kors and Marc by Marc Jacobs. The concern is that Balmain Blue Label will become another cheap and even trashy version of its high-end partner, but here’s hoping that doesn’t happen!
Sources: NBC New York, The Hollywood Reporter, The Atlantic
Photos: http://luxe.supdepub.com, The Atlantic