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Balenciaga is now the hottest fashion brand. How did they conquer Gen-Z?

Balenciaga climbs to the summit.

After ruling supreme for months, the house of Gucci has been relegated to second place among the most popular fashion brands, knocked off the top spot by Balenciaga. A return to haute couture and a host of bold —  and avant-garde — collaborations have paved the way for this luxury brand to win (back) the hearts of fashion fans, driven notably by the notoriously hard-to-please Gen Z.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Fortnite (@fortnite)

Balenciaga seems to draw as much fascination as criticism, thanks largely to a marketing strategy that can only be described as bold — if not totally crazy. Still, the fashion house is the talk of the whole world, it seems, to the point of becoming the most popular brand in the latest Lyst* report on the top trends and brands in the third quarter of 2021. The brand, helmed by Georgian designer and Vetements founder Demna Gvasalia has risen five places in just a few months to challenge Gucci, another brand particularly popular with Gen Z, and which was previously the ranking’s undisputed leader.

Fortnite, Simpsons, Kanye West

Although Balenciaga has always been a brand that’s appreciated by the public, its popularity is now evidently growing by the day. This rise was no-doubt spurred by the brand’s great return to haute couture last July — after about half a century’s absence — and has continued to gain momentum since the fall, with projects each more audacious than the next. At the end of September, the fashion house sent social media wild by announcing a collaboration with “Fortnite,” one of the world’s most popular video games, offering players the possibility to get virtual Balenciaga outfits and fashion accessories, and, by extension, confirming the growing interest of luxury houses in Gen Z.

Balenciaga Couture

A few days later, the French fashion house struck again. While presenting its spring-summer 2022 collection at Paris Fashion Week, the brand dropped a never-before-seen episode of “The Simpsons,” turning Marge, Homer, Bart, Lisa and the rest of the gang into ambassadors for its latest looks. It was the luxury world making an incursion into pop culture — or vice versa — and an initiative that landed with full impact. And this mix of genres and cultures is an integral part of Balenciaga’s winning strategy. Indeed, the brand has understood that Gen Z — the new prime target for luxury houses — wants neither pigeonholes nor stereotypes.

As if to seal its success, it now seems like a plethora of celebrities swear only by Balenciaga — or almost. From Kim Kardashian to Rihanna to Kanye West — or Ye by his new name — the fashion house can count on a five-star cast to showcase its outfits. The success of the brand at the last MET Gala shows that Balenciaga is all over the red carpet. And that’s not to mention Balenciaga’s collab with the same Kanye “Ye” West during the release of “Donda.” These gambles may seem crazy at first glance, but they’re winning on all fronts, since the luxury house has evidently never been so popular.

An ode to color and sportswear

According to The Lyst Index, Gucci is now the second most popular brand, ahead of Dior, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Bottega Veneta, Versace, Fendi and Saint Laurent. Dolce & Gabbana returns to the Top 20, closing the ranking.

Fendi x Versace (Photo credit: Pier Nicola Bruno)
Fendi x Versace (Photo credit: Pier Nicola Bruno)

From July to September — a period marked by a return to relatively normal life in many countries — trends were dominated by colorful pieces, sportswear-inspired clothing and strong interest in accessories of all kinds. Prada’s raffia tote bag topped the list of most popular women’s items, followed by Versace’s Medusa Aevitas platform shoes in vibrant pink, and Bottega Veneta’s terry cloth slides. On the men’s side, Adidas Yeezy sneakers remain unchallenged at the top of the ranking, and, more precisely, the Yeezy Foam Runner, with searches up 411%.

* Lyst analyzed the online behavior of its 150 million consumers who search, browse and purchase fashion items from 17,000 brands and online stores. The Lyst Index methodology takes into account consumer behavior on the platform, including conversion and sale rates. The study also takes into account Google searches, social media mentions, and global engagement statistics over a three-month period.

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Hero and feature images by Balenciaga. The story is published via AFP Relaxnews