Balmain to leverage Olivier Rousteing’s pull in ambitious expansion drive
Massimo Piombini joined Balmain last April, and is busy working to "transform this small enterprise into a major player in the world of luxury." As a guest of the conference on the world luxury market, organised in Milan by Altagamma - the Italian luxury industry association - on Wednesday, the CEO of the Parisian label acquired in 2016 by Qatari investment fund Mayhoola has disclosed some of the key elements of his new strategy for Balmain.
Under Piombini's aegis, Balmain has strengthened the senior management team in order to accelerate its expansion. It created the post of marketing director, to which Txampi Diz was recently appointed, and restructured all its departments, also hiring a sales director, a merchandising director and a CFO.
"Balmain is unique in communications' terms, since it enjoys a huge visibility, one that is almost disproportionate to the company's actual size, thanks to the social media popularity of our Creative Director Olivier Rousteing," said Massimo Piombini, formerly Commercial Director at Valentino.
Rousteing, 31, has 4.6 million followers on Instagram. "We already appeal to Millennials, as Olivier is actually one of them! His social media success is due to the way in which he has transformed the elitist, exclusive image of the creative director into an inclusive figure, letting the general public share his private life," said Piombini.
Well-aware that Olivier Rousteing is "Balmain's most important asset," the fashion label has no wish to reduce the reliance on its creative director and his huge ability to appeal, but rather wants to transform this in a growth factor, by managing it.
"We want to transform this huge audience in a business opportunity via an entertainment marketing strategy, by establishing an authentic daily presence alongside consumers in order to engage them in the Balmain brand," said Massimo Piombini.
The idea is to engage with consumers through a variety of entertainment media by creating content with an array of different partners. In early November, Piombini will travel to Silicon Valley to meet several big names, among them Amazon, Facebook, Netflix and Google.
Balmain is not yet distributed in China and Piombini also said he will soon meet with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, "to work on content," specifying that "it will not be advertising.”
Balmain's new strategy focuses on film too. Last July, the producer of the 'Valentino: the Last Emperor' bio-documentary deployed some members of his team at Balmain to work on a film on Olivier Rousteing, entitled 'The Wonder Boy', to be released in 2019 and which may be presented at the Cannes Film Festival.
The fashion label, whose best-seller since 2011 is the six-button jacket, is also busy with a spate of collaborations to further boost its popularity. After a partnership with the Opéra de Paris dance company, Balmain will design 20 looks for Victoria's Secret's next catwalk show in Shanghai.
Balmain expects to reach a revenue of €150 million in 2017, 90% of which is generated by the wholesale channel, and is also putting more effort into direct retail. It currently operates 16 monobrand stores, including the one recently inaugurated in Los Angeles, and plans to open another thirty or so in the next 4 to 5 years. Next on the list are notably a store in Milan's via Montenapoleone in April 2018 and another in Miami the following November.
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