Demna’s vision shines at Balenciaga’s Shanghai runway

    Jing Daily talks to Balenciaga CEO Cédric Charbit about the Shanghai show and how China’s early adoption of Demna’s aesthetic fueled the maison’s expansion.
    Balenciaga choses Shanghai as stage for Spring 2025 show. Image: Balenciaga
      Published   in Fashion

    When Balenciaga unveiled its Fall 2024 collection under the iconic Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles last year, it blended avant-garde sensibilities with classic Tinseltown glamor. But if you thought the brand would rest on its laurels, you’d be mistaken.

    On May 30, the fashion label unveiled its Spring 2025 collection in Shanghai, a city that has become a linchpin in its global strategy.

    “China is where the connection with our clients, brand followers, and fans is the most impressive in terms of support and commitment to the brand,” CEO Cédric Charbit tells Jing Daily.

    “It’s a market where you want to launch new products and engage with local and cultural key moments. Our goal here is to learn and implement a strategy that is taking the brand story forward, especially knowing that what is happening in China resonates globally.”

    A loyal market, cult following#

    The event generated viral buzz on Chinese socials: 65.8 million views of the official Weibo livestream (with 50,900 likes, 3500 comments and 5400 reposts at the time of writing). The #BalenciagainShanghai hashtag garnered 33million views.

    To understand why Balenciaga’s Shanghai show matters, a look back is required. The brand first graced China with runways in 2013 and 2014. In the thick of the pandemic in 2021, Artistic Director Demna introduced his first couture collection in China during an extensive five-day presentation. This year’s show, however, marks Demna’s inaugural official runway in the nation — a significant milestone for both the designer and the brand.

    For a maison with so many devoted local fans, as is evident from a walk down Shanghai’s Anfu Road or around any Jing’an District shopping mall, what role does the market play in Balenciaga’s global strategy?

    A look from Balenciaga's 2025 Shanghai show. Image: Balenciaga.
    A look from Balenciaga's 2025 Shanghai show. Image: Balenciaga.

    “The Chinese cluster, also when traveling, makes China one of the most important luxury markets globally. China was a very early adopter of Demna’s aesthetic, and among the first audiences to really go for it,” Charbit says.

    This has meant that Balenciaga’s retail expansion in the mainland really started when Demna joined as Artistic Director. From seven stores in 2016 to nearly 60 today, China is the country with the largest number of Balenciaga stores in the world.

    “Since then it has played an important role. China is a strong market that is both solid and extremely dynamic,” says Charbit. “Somehow, we grew together so this market has been embedded in our strategy since the beginning.”

    Cédric Charbit, CEO of Balenciaga. Image: Balenciaga
    Cédric Charbit, CEO of Balenciaga. Image: Balenciaga

    The timing of this event is noteworthy. The global luxury fashion industry is experiencing a slowdown, and China is facing its own economic challenges. This has prompted many brands to rethink their strategies in the region.

    While some are considering divestment, others are doubling down. Balenciaga, alongside Hermès, Kenzo, and Louis Vuitton, has opted to invest in high-profile runway shows in the mainland this year.

    “At Balenciaga, we are thinking long term, and our business is showing great resilience,” Charbit says. “Not only that, we believe in the future and the potential of the market. We see China as a very strategic and important place to bring the brand to the next levels, hence it gets clienteling, product innovation and new store formats.”

    In fact, while many brands have experienced a significant drop in sales, Charbit says that Balenciaga “had a record year in 2023.”

    “I believe the brand offers a ground-breaking aesthetic and our ability to innovate is striking,” he adds.

    Localization and collaboration#

    The Shanghai show represents a timely opportunity for Balenciaga to connect with one of its largest and most devoted markets. Given the Kering-owned brand’s immense global footprint, engaging with local audiences becomes more than just a strategic choice — it is a responsibility.

    “It is our duty to engage locally,” Charbit says. The decision was straightforward once the stunning location at Shanghai’s Museum of Art Pudong (MAP) was secured.

    From the initial announcement to invitations and the final show, the event was crafted to captivate. Balenciaga has a history of using unique venues to make bold statements — the Spring 2023 collection transformed the New York Stock Exchange into a runway for models in latex attire, turning heads and sparking conversations.

    Balenciaga branded dim sum set at renowned local restaurant Nu Xiang Mu Dou. Image: Balenciaga.
    Balenciaga branded dim sum set at renowned local restaurant Nu Xiang Mu Dou. Image: Balenciaga.

    Launching several local collaborations for the event has also highlighted both Balenciaga’s nod to tradition and its commitment to innovation in the China market. The renowned local restaurant Nu Xiang Mu Dou offered an exclusive vegan dim sum set in Balenciaga’s signature grey, and traditional win-win cakes, symbolizing good fortune and celebration.

    Balenciaga has also teamed up with Alipay, the world’s leading digital payment and lifestyle service platform serving over 1 billion users. Following the Spring 2025 Shanghai show, a limited-edition T-shirt made in collaboration with Alipay is available via select Balenciaga stores, on the brand’s WeChat mini-program, and through and Tmall.

    Being different and that Demna magic#

    With Demna’s reintroduction of couture to the label, the Shanghai show featured a breathtaking finale of 10 couture gowns, crafted specifically for the occasion. This, Charbit explains, is a celebration of the brand’s return to couture, symbolizing the bridge between Balenciaga’s storied past and its innovative future. 

    This follows 2021’s milestone couture exhibition in China, a worldwide exclusive where Balenciaga couture was showcased outside of Paris for the first time.

    “It was and still is an honor to share the heritage of the house and Demna’s creative vision with our highly sophisticated Chinese audience who has the utmost understanding of luxury and craft,” Charbit adds. 

    A look from Balenciaga Spring 2025 show in Shanghai. Image: Balenciaga
    A look from Balenciaga Spring 2025 show in Shanghai. Image: Balenciaga

    Demna’s vision is unmistakably tongue-in-cheek, provocative and so influential that it has shifted the industry’s paradigm. In the luxury market, “being different” encompasses not just a distinctive aesthetic, but also creating a unique community - one of Balenciaga’s notable strengths.

    This approach has positioned the brand exceptionally well, particularly for its top Very Important Clients (VICs) in China. Charbit notes that this clientele segment has demonstrated not only resilience, but also significant growth and engagement, hence the business’ record-breaking 2023 sales.

    Loyal fans love what Demna has crafted at Balenciaga: a distinctive silhouette, innovative products, and a fresh take on luxury codes that offered audiences worldwide a proposition that’s genuinely new.

    His avant-garde approach and boundary-pushing designs have captivated both the industry and global consumers, blending streetwear influences with high fashion craftsmanship. The result is pieces that are provocative and resonant, and sometimes disruptive, sparking viral fashion moments with tape-inspired bangles, towel skirts and more.

    “What is interesting is that what felt disruptive in Paris was just something new and cool in other countries and vice versa,” says Charbit. “Demna makes fashion and couture, but ultimately he is a cultural phenomenon.”

    “You better expect the unexpected, and embrace the new.”

    • Balenciaga’s Spring 2025 show in Shanghai highlights the brand's strategic focus on China, a crucial market known for its strong support of the brand.
    • Under CEO Cédric Charbit and Artistic Director Demna, Balenciaga has significantly expanded its retail presence in China, growing from seven stores in 2016 to nearly 60 today, reinforcing its long-term investment in the region.
    • The Shanghai show celebrated the brand’s couture offerings with 10 gowns crafted just for this event, generating significant social buzz.
    • Innovative collaborations with Alipay and a famed local restaurant nods to a robust localization strategy.
    • Since Balenciaga had a record year in 2023, expectations for the brand’s performance in China in 2024 may be high following this Shanghai activation.
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