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Jeans and Jersey-Knits? Balmain’s New CEO Expected to Change Brand’s Direction

Balman's New CEO Brought On As
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* French fashion label Balmain announces new CEO Massimo Piombini
* Piombini replaces Emmanuel Diemoz in the house’s efforts to grow
* Creative director Olivier Rousteing & Piombini explain plans in interview with WWD

French fashion house Balmain has named Massimo Piombini as its new CEO, replacing incumbent Emmanuel Diemoz in efforts to grow the brand. During his 17 year tenure at Balmain, Diemoz was able to provide “exemplary leadership,” and has been credited with guiding the house into a period of rapid growth, high sales and cementing a cohesive brand identity to the label. But the appointment of a new CEO reflects the company’s desire to re-direct their scope once again, with the fundamental aim of broadening their audience through a shift in their aesthetic.

Under current creative director Olivier Rousteing, the fashion house has become notorious for their highly ornamental pieces, often rendered with sequins and theatrical silhouettes. Their ubiquitous glam meets rock-and-roll aesthetic has become Balmain’s signature, but according to the designer and new CEO, this may be changing in the near future.

While the shift in aesthetic and marketing direction may seem like a dramatic move, this won’t be Balamin’s first endeavor in attempting to broaden their audience. In 2015, Balmain launched a wildly successful collaboration collection for fast fashion retailer, H&M. The collection was pointedly marketed to millennials (Rousteing is only 31 years old, himself), casting it-girls like Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner to walk in his show and re-creating some of his most famous pieces from past seasons, but with a more attainable price point. The collection was H&M’s most popular designer-collab in history, even out-pacing Karl Lagerfeld’s inaugural collection for the retailer in 2004.

The finale at the Balmain fall 2017 show in Paris.

Rousteing and Piombo told WWD in an exclusive interview that this time, the trajectory for growth will be implemented by mixing up their aesthetic to offer a broader mix of styles, including incorporating more denim and casual pieces in their collections.

“We want to rethink casual luxury. We want to put more denims, we want to bring more jersey in the collection, knitwear — something more casual, but still keeping it couture and luxury,” explains Rousteing.

Balmain’s transition, however, is not intended to alienate Rousteing’s female customer and loyal fan base, which includes celebrities like Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez. The young designer has become known for designing pieces to dress a fierce, empowered woman, but under the guidance of Piombini — who previously held an executive position at Valentino — he plans to imbue his designs with a touch of “romanticism” and “fragility.” The creative director admits that he is recognized for reviving and reshaping the brand’s direction since he joined Balmain back in 2004 after Christophe Decarnin’s departure but is enthusiastic and welcoming to the changes ahead: “I’m known for the superstar Balmain, but I think now it’s time for Balmain to show another aspect, and this is what excites me.”