‘We’ve created our own rules.’

Balenciaga CEO Cédric Charbit and Demna on turning a marginal vision into mainstream success.

By Jonathan Wingfield
Photographs by Juergen Teller
Creative partner Dovile Drizyte

Cédric Charbit & Demna. - © System Magazine

Balenciaga CEO Cédric Charbit and Demna on turning a marginal vision into mainstream success.

Since he became Balenciaga’s CEO in 2016, Cédric Charbit has been on a stealth mission: transform the vision of Demna – a creative director arguably more comfortable when operating in the margins – into mainstream global success.

With Demna often working from his adopted hometown of Zurich and Charbit in Balenciaga’s Parisian headquarters, the pair have built a relationship they describe as based on mutual trust around a simple ritual: a weekly call. ‘Just the two of us, tête-à-tête,’ says Charbit. ‘When we are able to talk openly about things.’

Charbit himself has spent his entire career at Kering, beginning at the luxury group – then called PPR – as a young buyer for Printemps department store in Paris. After rising through the ranks, he was appointed executive vice president of product and marketing at Saint Laurent in May 2016. Within six months, he was offered the role of CEO at Balenciaga and jumped at the chance.

Since then, he has overseen an almost complete transformation of the company’s internal organisation, including the absorption of the entire merchandising department into the design studio, while balancing the sometimes-competing pressures of creative vision and commercial reality. The result has been a remarkable increase not only in the brand’s revenue, but also its image and status. Under his watch, Balenciaga has once again become what Charbit believes it should always be: ‘ground-breaking, innovative, pushing the norms.’

System spoke to Charbit and Demna at Balenciaga’s Rue de Sèvres headquarters about the pair’s learning curve, the challenge of implementing a powerful and singular vision, and ensuring that everything is infallibly ‘brand right’.

To find out what a great fashion partnership is all about, read the full conversation in System No. 18. Click to buy.

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