Balenciaga is a hugely popular Paris-based luxury fashion house, founded by Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga in 1917 – but how sustainable are they and do they use ethical practises?
Now owned by multi-national holding company Kering, the luxury brand has gained enormous popularity among younger generations – from streetwear fans to vintage lovers – by bringing back long-forgotten items and making them appeal to the contemporary audience.
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The pricing of the brand ain’t cheap, ranging from £75 for their trademark socks to more than £6,000 for a biker jacket.
Balenciaga’s coveted designs now dictate some of the biggest fashion trends on the high street, with cheap versions of their Triple S sneakers, fluro heels and camera bags finding their ways into fast fashion stores.
Here, we take a closer look at their practises.
Is Balenciaga ethical?
Cédric Charbit, CEO of Balenciaga, has claimed that the company’s main focus is gender equality among their employees.
With the number of people working for the company doubling in the recent years, 70% are women and 30% are men, evidently in favour of women.
He explains, ‘In the fashion industry we are fortunate to have parity in favour of the female gender, highly reflected in Balenciaga.
‘My executive committee is made up of 80% women and 20% men. It’s important to keep in mind the issue of equality between men and women in teams. Especially in management positions, positions of responsibility.’
However, the CEO admits that, ‘In 2019, 4% of our female employees had a similar experience level, skills and equivalent performance than their male counterparts yet they received a lower salary’.
Charbit acknowledges the problem of unequal pay within the company and is claiming to work on the issue.
Unfortunately, things aren’t as optimistic when it comes to the production sector. Most of the final stage of production is undertaken in Italy, a medium risk country for labour abuse.
On their website, Balenciaga diclose a detailed list of suppliers in the final stage of production and some information about the second stage of production.
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It claims to be thriving to solve the issue of forced labour, slavery and human trafficking, however there is no evidence it ensures payment of a living wage in its supply chain.
As their prices are sky-high, this has to change.
Read Balenciaga’s Transparency In Supply Chains policy here.
Is Balenciaga Sustainable?
Balenciaga is definitely succeeding in terms of sustainability, and Charbit claims ‘the group is very active in the sustainable development department’ and are ‘committed to releasing collections that reflect its engagement for a better world and a sustainable future.’
For Balenciaga’s SS21 collection, Balenciaga’s creative director Demna Gvasalia focused on looking at the environmental impact of his garments.
93.5 per cent of the plain materials in this collection are either certified sustainable or upcycled, while the show notes claim ‘100 per cent of the print bases have sustainable certifications.’
The garments featured a range of illustrations of endangered animal species including Rhinos, Asian Elephants and Blue Whales, and the proceeds were donated to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
In 2019, the brand collaborated with Farfetch to launch an eco-friendly collection, with the aim of bringing awareness to threatened species.
In 2022, the brand debuted its first mushroom leather jacket. The piece, which is made from mushroom roots turned into a mycelium-based leather, is one of the articles of clothing showcased during the brand’s show at Paris Fashion Week. The show is said to be Demna’s comment on the climate crisis and the current crisis in Ukraine.
In general, the company has set a science-based target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated from its operations and supply chain and is on track to meet its target.
It also has a policy approved by CanopyStyle to prevent deforestation of ancient and endangered forests in its supply chain. However it uses few eco-friendly materials, which is certainly an area of improvement for the brand.
Balenciaga’s Animal Welfare Policy
While Kering has published its agenda for ensuring humane treatment of animals across its supply chain, Balenciaga does not have its own official animal testing policy on their website.
Unfortunately, Balenciaga is not a cruelty-free corporation as they continue to test their products and ingredients on animals and use leather, fur, angora, exotic animal hair and exotic animal skin for creating their products.
Seeing as they produced the previously mentioned animal conservation collection, this throws up serious questions about their true intentions.
Wear Next Opinion
Wear Next believes it’s important to highlight the negative and unjust practises taking place in the fashion industry. We believe ethics and sustainability are an important talking point to bring about change and we encourage you to contact fashion brands to demand this.
However we understand that sustainable fashion isn’t accessible for every body due to various factors, such as budget and the ability to find confidence-boosting clothes that fit. We will continue to offer you fashion inspiration and guidance to suit every body and budget, while also highlighting the unjust systems at play in the fashion industry.
Would you still shop at Balenciaga? Let us know in the comments below.