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Balmain’s next growth drivers will be accessories and social media

Translated by
Nicola Mira
today Oct 23, 2019
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Parisian luxury label Balmain is intensifying its efforts on fashion accessories and social media to further drive its growth. The label is notably working on a transformation of its customer relationship approach by taking a closer interest in its social media followers, as CEO Massimo Piombini explained on Tuesday, speaking at the Milano Fashion Global Summit 2019 symposium in Milan. In parallel, the documentary film ‘Wonder Boy’, about Balmain’s creative director Olivier Rousteing, is about to be released.

Massimo Piombini, CEO of Balmain - ph Dominique Muret

Rousteing was only 25 in 2011 when he took charge of style for the Parisian label, which was founded in 1945 and, since 2016, has been owned by Qatari investment fund Mayhoola. “Olivier was one of the first to use Instagram as a communication platform, he effectively grew up with his audience. Between his own and Balmain’s account, from 15 to 16 million people are currently following Balmain. The label already had a significant audience, but it needed to capitalise on it,” said Piombini, who has been in charge of the company since April 2017.

“In two years, a period in which our staff nearly doubled, we deployed a strategy entirely focused on the figure of Olivier Rousteing, while at the same time linking our name to the worlds of leisure, music, sport and films. Olivier is central to our whole brand image effort and communication activity, from the photoshoots for our advertising campaigns to store concepts to social media. He does it in a way that is totally spontaneous, positive, easy-going and inclusive,” said Piombini.

This aspect of Rousteing's character comes across very clearly in Anissa Bonnefont’s film ‘Wonder Boy’, which shows both facets of Rousteing's personality: the uber-cool star designer, fully immersed in the glamour of the fashion world, and the sombre, solitary young man of African origin, born to parents unknown and adopted by a Bordeaux family, constantly searching for his roots. The film will be released at the end of November, with a planned private showing for the president of France, ahead of a discussion within the French government on a revision of the country's adoption laws.

On the business strategy side, Balmain is busy transforming its customer relationship and marketing approach, by concentrating on its social media followers. A resource that enables Balmain to reach a vast number of potential customers, especially compared to the number of people who visit its stores. “We are applying our usual CRM tools to these followers, using a bespoke approach designed to better identify them, something which isn't standard procedure,” said Piombini.

Olivier Rousteing at the Balmain catwalk show last June - © PixelFormula

Fashion accessories are another growth driver for the label. In ready-to-wear, “Balmain has a very specific brand positioning, with a very clear image. It is now down to accessories to make a difference,” explained Piombini. This means handbags and sneakers, but especially shoes and a range of “more democratically priced products.” The goal is for accessories to reach a share of the label’s sales worth between 30 and 40%. This would enable Balmain to double its revenue, which was €185 million in 2018.

Distribution-wise, Balmain is favouring e-commerce, which now accounts for 30% of its total sales, while it is also starting to develop a network of monobrand stores. It currently operates 19 of them, and in the next two to three years the number is expected to rise to 30-40 worldwide.

But Balmain, which has launched multiple collaborations in recent years, the latest ones with Puma and Cara Delevingne, is also trying to become more selective. As Piombini noted, “doing collaborations isn’t the problem, the problem is how not to do them! We are highly sought-after, but we decided to introduce fewer collaborations in future, picking them carefully. Collaborations boost a label's visibility and, in general for us, all our co-branded products usually sell out in a couple of days. But we must be careful not to cause Balmain to lose its brand identity.”

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