Kering-owned French luxury brand Balenciaga will open one of its largest stores globally in Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville area this year, marking an important milestone in the neighbourhood’s ongoing transformation as a luxury retail destination. Balenciaga was recently ranked as the world’s top brand and its presence with a massive storefront next to Chanel is expected to attract even more luxury retailers to the area.
Balenciaga will occupy about 7,000 square feet over two levels at 92 Yorkville Avenue in a retail space formerly occupied by Diesel. The Balenciaga flagship is expected to carry the brand’s full range of fashions for women and men given the vastness of the space. From November 15, 2021 to January 15, 2022, a main-floor pop-up in the space for a Gucci x Balenciaga ‘Hacker Project’ collaboration saw the space occupied for about two months. Renovations to the entire space commenced this week and the Balenciaga store is expected to open late spring/early summer.
Eric Sherman, Vice President Real Estate, Yorkville at First Capital REIT, negotiated the deal on behalf of the landlord. He said, “Balenciaga is one of the most prestigious and coveted brands in the world and are a perfect fit for our property at 92 Yorkville Avenue. Their decision to convert what originally started as a pop up concept in a small portion of the space into a full building flagship exemplifies the confidence in the market and further validates our strategy in Yorkville.”
“We see Balenciaga as another game changer for the neighborhood as we add to our portfolio of best in class fashion brands and retail concepts,” he went on to say.
The permanent movement of Balenciaga into a standalone flagship space in Yorkville is a pivotal moment for the neighbourhood as Sherman pointed out. Over the past seven years or so, luxury brands have been opening on Yorkville Avenue and more are expected to come now that Balenciaga will be a confirmed tenant taking such a large and prominent space.
Luxury brand Chanel operates next to Balenciaga in an 8,500 square foot store that opened in the fall of 2017. Its opening followed a Christian Louboutin store that opened in the summer of 2016. Luxury brands to have since opened on Yorkville Avenue include Versace, Brunello Cucinelli (largest in North America) and Stone Island, all of which are located in the 102-108 Yorkville Avenue complex owned by First Capital REIT. Italian men’s luxury fashion brand Isaia also opened several months ago nearby at 77 Yorkville Avenue.
When the new Yorkville Avenue flagship opens in a few months, Balenciaga could exit its current 2,000 square foot concession space nearby at Holt Renfrew at 50 Bloor Street West. Balenciaga opened the concession boutique in the fall of 2019 and given its size and expansive presence within the main floor of Holt Renfrew, one or two luxury brands could replace it.
The Yorkville Avenue flagship will be Balenciaga’s second standalone storefront in Canada. The first opened in December of 2019 at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre in an impressive space spanning about 4,700 square feet with just over 3,300 square feet of retail space.
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. Included is ready-to-wear for men and women as well as accessories, bags and footwear.
Balenciaga entered the Montreal market in the spring of 2019 when it unveiled a men’s concession on the fourth floor of Holt Renfrew Ogilvy. That was followed by separate women’s fashion and accessory concessions on the third floor of the store.
In the fall of 2019, Balenciaga opened its second ‘world of’ concession in Canada at Holt Renfrew’s flagship store at 50 Bloor Street West in Toronto as mentioned above.
Several other high-end retailers in Canada carry Balenciaga. Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship at CF Toronto Eaton Centre in Toronto currently features dedicated Balenciaga shops for accessories and womenswear and men’s collections are also available. Rumours are circulating that Balenciaga could pull out of the store following three other major luxury brands including Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Saint Laurent.
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 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.
According to the Q4 2021 Lyst Index (the most recent at press time), Balenciaga was ranked as the world’s most popular brand while Gucci was ranked second. Balenciaga is having a fashion moment — the brand returned to haute couture after 53 years last year, launched a Fortnite collaboration, and teamed up with Kanye West on the launch of his Donda album. Recently the brand also showcased its fashion collection in cartoon format at Paris Fashion Week via popular television program ‘The Simpsons’.
We’ll follow up on this story in a few months when Balenciaga unveils its Bloor-Yorkville flagship in Toronto.