Can the Balenciaga family turn over with a towel?

Balenciaga’s $925 bath towel has once again become a hot topic on social media, sparking intense controversy. Although this towel skirt has an adjustable buckle at the waist, it still doesn’t seem to convince people of its pricing.


The market is not unfamiliar with Balenciaga’s method of selling ordinary daily items at exorbitant prices. Last year, Balenciaga’s trash bag “Trash Pouch” sparked online discussions, with this handbag priced at $1790 or approximately 12000 yuan. In addition to Balenciaga, in recent years, as more and more emerging brands become familiar with social media logic and adept at topic creation, the market has become increasingly accustomed to such viral marketing.


But the fact once again proves that in the battle for attention resources, simple and direct methods always work.


According to the monitoring of Fashion Business News, mainstream media including Vogue, Hypefast, Highsnobiity, The Cut, Guardian, and new media opinion leaders including DietPrada have all discussed and reported on Balenciaga towels.

Dieter Prada bluntly stated that he thought Balenciaga had given up pursuing viral marketing gimmicks after the PR crisis. He also posted several pictures from Prada and Ludovic de Saint Sernin, suggesting that the originality of this idea is not high. Dieter Prada and many commentators believe that this marketing approach goes against Demna’s promise to take clothing seriously after the crisis.


The addition of IKEA has added another spark to this topic. The home furnishing retailer has released a targeted set of advertisements imitating Balenciaga, featuring models wearing black hoodies and sunglasses, but with genuine VINARN bath towels at their waist, priced at only $10.

It seems that this is IKEA’s counterattack and irony towards Balenciaga. In one of the photos, the model is holding an IKEA Frakta shopping bag, and if people still remember Balenciaga launching a $2000 leather version of the Frakta shopping bag in 2017, they will find this move meaningful.


In terms of towel marketing itself, this may just be another successful but not innovative event marketing. But if viewed in a larger context, this public opinion peak may be a key turning point.


Setting the clock back to half a year ago, the discussion of Balenciaga in European and American media at that time contrasted sharply with the current lively scene. After the controversial advertising incident at the end of November last year, Balenciaga was more or less shrouded in a shadow, with media and social media opinion leaders reducing their discussion of the brand to some extent.


Correspondingly, Balenciaga has also changed its marketing strategy over the past year from its previous focus on social media topics, shifting towards restraint and quietness.


The Winter 23 series, released in Paris in March this year, was the first offline fashion show after the crisis. Creative Director Demna made a statement that Balenciaga’s next creative direction is to return to the clothing itself. At that time, apart from critics such as Cathy Horyn, many media outlets were still hesitant to attend and report on this show.


Afterwards, the Spring 24 Series Capital B, which also belongs to this bath towel series, was released online in May in the form of a short film, showcasing Paris in the rain. The Summer 24 Series fashion show will be held in October, and Demna invites many friends from the fashion industry to stand on its platform. Inviting his friends, family, and colleagues on stage for a runway show may be interpreted as Demna’s manifestation of gaining strength and support for himself under public pressure.


So far, these three series, as the results of Demna’s work in the post crisis era, have determined Demna’s next steps and Balenciaga’s direction.


Among these three collections, Balenciaga’s marketing strategy mostly focuses on the fashion collection itself. In addition, the most important initiative taken by the brand was the first announcement of the appointment of a brand ambassador in August this year, with the first two being French actress Isabelle Huppert and Thai actor and singer model PP Krit Amnuaydeckorn.


In China’s 520 and Qixi and other key luxury marketing nodes, Balenciaga chose a more relaxed form of promotion, and advertising blockbusters focused more on the product itself.


The recently released “It’s Different” 2023 autumn/winter series advertisement chose to appear in the form of a book without a model, mainly showcasing the product through humorous slogans.

At the same time, Balenciaga is putting more energy into a more low-key retail expansion. In just over a month, the brand has opened two new stores, including Mumbai’s first store in India and a flagship store in the iconic Taipei 101 building, the tallest building in Taipei, China. As of now, the brand has approximately 300 stores worldwide.


In this way, we can see more clearly that in the past three series and a year long stable tone, the sudden marketing of bath towels has gone against the norm and broken the calm.


In fact, Balenciaga has already introduced a towel design at the winter 22 series blizzard themed fashion show. The bath towel that this topic focuses on had already made its debut when Balenciaga released its 2024 spring collection in May this year. At that time, apart from the core fashion circle, it did not spark such widespread discussion in the mass market.


Until the Spring 24 series started booking six months later, mainstream media all promoted the topic of single item bath towels. After marketing cases such as MSCHF Big Red Boots, the result of the skyrocketing topic popularity of individual products is obvious. Not only will fashion enthusiasts purchase topic items to form secondary communication, but the sales results of other products in this series will also benefit.

But then we don’t have to ask, does this mean Balenciaga’s return to the mainstream public opinion. Just because people are starting to revisit Balenciaga’s behavior is already worth the attention of industry observers.


When social media boycotts brands are common, the market is also starting to see brands that were once neglected make a comeback. Whether it’s Wikimedia, which has been embroiled in gender controversy, or sports giants plagued by controversy, negative public opinion often does not completely destroy brands. After continuous and reasonable transformation and correction, time can be said to be the best medicine.


In the era of social media, although market reviews may intimidate brands, they are far from enough to ruin a business, because business is built through every store, every sale, and every product.


As an isolated event, bath towel marketing is not commendable, but in the macro context, it has become an important breakthrough for Balenciaga, reversing the brand’s passive position in public opinion.


It is difficult to say whether this was intentional by Balenciaga. After all, the brand seems to have prepared sufficient ammunition with foresight, leaning out through the window of the towel. Over the past week, multiple news hotspots have been released almost simultaneously, collectively leveraging the brand’s momentum.


On November 9th, Balenciaga announced actress and producer Michelle Yeung as the brand ambassador, alongside Isabelle Huppert and Thai celebrity PP Krit Amnuaydechkorn. Given Yang Ziqiong’s widespread popularity in both the Chinese and international markets, this topic has received high attention in Balenciaga’s current most important Chinese market.

More importantly, the market believes that announcing Yang Ziqiong as the brand ambassador aims to win over high-end customized series customers and establish a more upscale brand image. Yang Ziqiong stated in a joint statement that Balenciaga embodies originality and practical significance, while always remaining faithful to its characteristics as a high-end custom fashion studio.


For Balenciaga, who is attempting to advance towards a high-end positioning, the quiet period of the past year objectively provides a memory erasing gap, making it easier for the brand to move closer to the image of a high-end custom fashion house.


At the same time as announcing Yang Ziqiong as the brand spokesperson, Balenciaga’s Spring 24 series advertisement was released, while another brand ambassador PP Krit Amnuaydechkorn was wearing a hot topic bath towel skirt. With the influence of Thai celebrities reaching a new high globally, the iconic brand design has been shaped through the use of two key media, celebrities and topic items, effectively increasing the exposure of the Spring 24 series advertising blockbusters. This clearly hides Balenciaga’s meticulous consideration of the four ounces and a thousand pounds behind it.

In addition to the aforementioned hot topics, according to the monitoring of the WeChat index, the discussion level of Balenciaga topic entries showed a peak of abnormal activity last Wednesday, with a year-on-year increase of nearly 550%.


On the same day, Balenciaga officially announced the release of its first Skiwear skiing collection.


According to Balenciaga, a series of products include ski suits, accessories, skiing equipment, and accessories, which combine innovative materials and high-tech performance. In design, they not only enhance visual clarity in skiing, but also have thermal insulation and aerodynamic characteristics, providing multi-dimensional protection. This series also introduces functional sports equipment such as single board, double board, helmet, and ski pole for the first time, suitable for alpine downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, or hiking skiing.

Due to the continuous heating of the Chinese skiing market in the past two years, this skiing series seems to be particularly popular among Chinese consumers. Especially since last winter, the market has noticed an increasing trend among young and affluent Chinese consumers who are enthusiastic about investing in luxury brands and high-end sports brand skiing equipment, resulting in the phenomenon of “rolling equipment”. Dior skis, LV ski goggles and other products are circulating in the secondary market, becoming strong evidence of the popularity of luxury skiing equipment.


Among the many luxury brands that have launched their skiing series, Balenciaga may have been a bit late, but it can be seen that the brand not only supplements the capsule series with the skiing series, but also prioritizes the release of the series to reverse the brand’s momentum.


On the one hand, this series establishes uniqueness among numerous luxury skiing series by highlighting functional attributes. On the other hand, the brand incorporates technology labels into the design language through the skiing series, continuing to improve the brand’s already highly recognizable core image.


In Demna’s previous designs, technology labels were actually very rare, but as high-tech sports brands such as Archaeopteryx and Salomon gained popularity among fashion enthusiasts, Balenciaga is undoubtedly iterating its design language to keep up with the times.


At this point, several shells of Balenciaga have been fired, which is the energy accumulated after a year of silence. Ideally, before people realize it, the brand will quietly complete a turnaround.


Against the backdrop of macroeconomic pressure, luxury brands are seeking stability, and changing creative directors is not the first choice. Louis Vuitton recently renewed his five-year contract with women’s creative director Nicolas Ghesqui è re, and Balenciaga is also struggling to find a suitable replacement for Demna in the short term.


In the past three series, it can be seen that Demna has transitioned from being cautious and conservative to relatively relaxed, especially in the recent summer 24 series, which has revealed more of Demna’s pre crisis creative self. It is speculated that he may continue to work hard in this position for a period of time.


In Demna’s imagined polar region, it doesn’t seem important whether to cover oneself with a bath towel or use a perfect high-tech ski suit to resist the cold. What’s important is that the last survivor perseveres.


They will walk through mud and blizzards, escape from difficult places to safe havens, and move from the edge of the industry to the center of the system.

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