As part of the ongoing whirl of designers taking elaborate shows to far-flung destinations — Karl in Dubai! Michael in Shanghai! Nicolas in Monaco! Raf in … Brooklyn! — Alexander Wang took to the Chinese capital for a Balenciaga show that included the spring 2014 looks, plus a “China Edition” consisting of 13 custom looks that were designed exclusively for the Chinese market. (They will be available at the brand’s Beijing store.) Wang, who is Chinese-American and spent some of his childhood in China (his mother still lives in Shanghai), has a unique perspective on the customer there, telling WWD that the country’s style used to be “much more based on logos and items that were much flashier. The consumers here have become much more evolved. The taste and the style have grown beyond the bigger brands that have a major presence.”
An exhibit of 40 designs by house founder Cristóbal Balenciaga was also displayed as part of the event, marking the first time such pieces had been exhibited in China. (They included iconic looks like the 1939 Infante Dress and the 1958 Baby Doll Dress.) Like so many luxury houses, Balenciaga is hoping to ramp up its presence in China, where it already has 12 mainland stores. Wang mentioned that Chinese customers aren’t as familiar with Balenciaga as they are with other luxury brands, so the exhibit — establishing the brand’s history via its archives — is part of that familiarization process. Balenciaga CEO Isabelle Guichot told WWD that “the competition is getting crazy, so it’s really about targeting the customer very, very intimately … It’s important for the client to understand what makes Balenciaga different, to learn the history of the brand.” Exclusive collection, plus a massive exhibit — call it the one-two punch approach.