Kering-owned French luxury brand Balenciaga has opened its first standalone Canadian storefront at Toronto’s Yorkdale shopping centre. It’s part of a direct-to-consumer boutique expansion for Balenciaga that began late last year with a concession expansion. More standalone boutiques are expected for Canada as Balenciaga sees growth in the Canadian market.
The open-concept Yorkdale Balenciaga flagship features the brand’s collection of ready-to-wear, footwear, and accessories, including an expansive assortment of leather goods and bags. Apparel ranges from the conservative to some of Balenciaga’s edgier designs which includes a range of streetwear pieces including sneakers which have seen strong sales for the brand globally.
Over the past several years, Balenciaga’s designs have skewed towards being more casual in nature reflecting the latest fashion trends — at one time, the brand was known for its ornate ball gowns designed by founder Cristobal Balenciaga. Under the direction of creative director Demna Gvasalia, who has been with the fashion house since 2015, Balenciaga’s casual designs have targeted a younger demographic.
Product in the Yorkdale Balenciaga storefront is displayed on a new system of racks and shelves, according to the brand. Shelving is made from extruded aluminum and with racks lining the walls with apparel displayed from branded hangers.
Carpeting is a soft lilac colour and features Balenciaga’s logo edged into the design. Rough pebble finishes are found both on flooring as well as walls. Seating in the boutique is inspired by public transportation, and tract lighting on the ceiling is described as being ‘utilitarian’ in nature.
Soon, a sculpture by artist Tobias Spichtig will be featured in the space — it’s part of a worldwide project where artworks are placed in freestanding Balenciaga stores worldwide.
The Yorkdale Balenciaga flagship includes 3,326 square feet of retail in a leased space spanning about 4,700 square feet. The boutique is located across from Yorkdale’s flagship Holt Renfrew store and is next to recently opened flagships for luxury brands Bottega Veneta and Valentino. Another major luxury brand will locate on the other side of Balenciaga in 2020 as the stretch of Yorkdale’s 2012 expansion wing is repositioned as a place for luxury brands by landlord Oxford Properties.
Balenciaga takes the place of a Hugo Boss store that occupied the space for several years. Earlier in the fall, Hugo Boss relocated to a larger space up the hall that includes a 6,663 square-foot main level with an additional 2,000 square feet of space on a mezzanine level, according to a lease plan.
Holt Renfrew, which faces Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, and Valentino, recently saw an expansion that has added several large boutique spaces. Balenciaga itself has a presence at Holt Renfrew despite the freestanding store being so close by — a temporary space in Holts men’s department is dedicated to Balenciaga, for example.
Several months ago, Gucci opened a stunning ‘world of’ boutique at Holts Yorkdale which spans about 6,000 square feet with entrances both from within Holt Renfrew as well as from the mall. Next to it is a 1,900 square-foot Fendi women’s concession as well as a recently opened 3,800 square-foot ‘world of’ Christian Dior concession that houses separate rooms for accessories and bags as well as women’s and men’s departments. Most recently, a ‘world of’ Burberry boutique opened at Holts Yorkdale in a central space across from Chanel and Prada, and next to a new-concept Miu Miu concession.
The 2012 Yorkdale expansion wing also houses retailers such as Apple, Microsoft, Tesla, John Varvatos, Stuart Weitzman, Club Monaco, and others — a Longchamp boutique will re-open at the end of December next to a recently opened Furla boutique on the other side of the main entrance to Holt Renfrew, while the spaces currently occupied by Longchamp and Ted Baker, both next to Balenciaga, will be merged for one soon-to-be-revealed luxury brand flagship store. Ted Baker also just opened its largest Canadian store up the hall from Balenciaga in part of a space vacated by the North Face several months ago.
Balenciaga has quietly expanded its presence in Canada by opening several leased concessions within Holt Renfrew stores.
In December of 2018, Balenciaga opened its first direct-to-consumer boutique in Canada at Holt Renfrew in Vancouver. The ‘world of’ concession, located on the main floor of the flagship Holts, is part of a luxury floor which houses many of the world’s best-known luxury brands. The Balenciaga boutique is situated in the centre of the floor with partitions and signage indicating its presence — a unique green/yellow carpet defines its borders. Included is ready-to-wear for men and women as well as accessories, bags and footwear.
In the fall of this year, Balenciaga opened its second ‘world of’ concession in Canada at Holt Renfrew’s flagship store at 50 Bloor Street West in Toronto.
The concession spans more than 2,000 square feet, spanning much of the east side of the main floor of the Holt Renfrew store. As with the Vancouver concession, the Toronto boutique carries the full line of Balenciaga fashions and features purple carpeting. Rather than being open concept, however, the Bloor Street Balenciaga is housed in an in-line boutique space between a David Yurman jewellery boutique and a soon-to-open Miu Miu accessory boutique.
In the spring of 2019, Balenciaga unveiled a men’s concession on the fourth floor of Holt Renfrew Ogilvy in Montreal. The expansive men’s floor houses about 25 concessions for some of the world’s biggest luxury brands. Within several months, Balenciaga will open an accessory boutique on the main floor luxury hall of Holt Renfrew Ogilvy and may also open a women’s concession in the spring of 2020, though the company hasn’t yet confirmed those details.
Several other high-end retailers in Canada carry Balenciaga. Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship at CF Toronto Eaton Centre features a dedicated Balenciaga shop on its women’s designer floor which is a licensed boutique operated by Saks. The men’s floor at Saks also carries Balenciaga men’s clothing and accessories while an area on the street level features a range of Balenciaga bags and accessories. Footwear for the brand can be found at Saks as well.
Nordstrom is also an important vendor for Balenciaga and in Canada, two of Nordstrom’s stores carry the brand. Nordstrom’s Vancouver flagship, which is among the chain’s top performing stores, features a Nordstrom-operated Balenciaga accessory boutique on the main floor as well as a dedicated women’s Balenciaga boutique space on the women’s floor. Balenciaga footwear can also be found at Nordstrom’s stores in Toronto and Vancouver.
SSENSE in Montreal and a handful of other retailers also carry products from Balenciaga as wholesale accounts.
Sources, including landlords and brand consultants have said that Balenciaga is considering opening more standalone storefronts in Canada. That could include a location in downtown Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville area as well as in Vancouver and possibly Montreal. The world of luxury retail in Canada is about to see a significant shake-up as developers target major brands in new developments which will be discussed in Retail Insider in the coming weeks.
French multi-national conglomerate Kering owns the Balenciaga brand, as well as other big names that are also expanding into Canada. Spanish fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga opened his first storefront in San Sebastián, Spain, in 1917, prior to expanding into Madrid and Barcelona. The Spanish Civil War forced Mr. Balenciaga to move his operations to Paris where he opened a couture house on Avenue George V in 1937.