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Someone pressing their black Balenciaga sneaker up against a caution taped wall.
23 Aug
Someone pressing their black Balenciaga sneaker up against a caution taped wall.

How Ethical Is Balenciaga?

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Balenciaga is a luxury brand known for revolutionising women’s fashion. In this article, we dive into the brand’s “It’s a Start” rating, which was published in June 2023 and may not reflect claims the brand has made since then. Our ratings analysts are constantly rerating the thousands of brands you can check on our directory.

Is Balenciaga an ethical and sustainable brand?

Luxury fashion house Balenciaga was founded in 1919 by Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga in San Sebastián. Based in Paris since 1937, Balenciaga rose to fame for its revolutionary silhouettes and modernisation of women’s fashion. These days, it is most well known for its motorcycle-inspired handbags but features a wide range of luxury clothes, shoes, and accessories for men and women. The Kering-owned brand has been making some efforts to reduce its environmental impact, but how is it doing for workers and animals? All in all, how ethical is Balenciaga?

Environmental impact

Our planet rating evaluates brands based on the environmental policies in their supply chains, from carbon emissions and wastewater to business models and product circularity. Care for the planet is where Balenciaga stands out, earning a “Good” rating, our second-highest score. Not only has it set a science-based target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated from its operations and supply chain, unlike many other large brands, it is actually on track to meet said target.

It has a policy approved by CanopyStyle to prevent deforestation of ancient and endangered forests in its supply chain and uses some lower-impact materials. including recycled materials. It also reduces chromium and other hazardous chemicals from the leather tanning processes. You can find these applaudable efforts across the entire Kering family of luxury brands.

While Balenciaga offers resale of second hand products, there’s no evidence it’s taking further action to address textile waste in its supply chain, which is an area we would love to see it improve in.

Labour conditions

Workers’ rights are central to our people rating, which assess brands’ policies and practices on everything from child labour to living wages and gender equality. Balenciaga has made progress on its labour conditions, and its score in this area jumped to “It’s a Start” in a recent re-rate.

Most of its final production stage is undertaken in the European Union a low to medium risk region for labour abuse, and it claims to have a program to improve wages, but there’s no evidence it ensures its workers are paid living wages in most of its supply chain.

It received a middling score of 41-50% in the Fashion Transparency Index, as it publishes some information about its supply chain and labour policies. It also implements practices to encourage diversity and inclusion in its direct operations but not its supply chain.

Overall, Balenciaga has some more work to do to achieve a higher rating for those who make the clothes the label is so famous for.

Animal welfare

Brands’ animal welfare policies and, where applicable, how well they trace their animal-derived products are the focus of our animals rating.

Unfortunately, Balenciaga’s animal rating dropped back down to “Not Good Enough” in the latest review. It has a formal policy aligned with the Five Domains of animal welfare. The brand appears to use leather, shearling, exotic animal hair, and silk. It does use wool as well, but Responsible Wool Standard certifies some of the wool it sources.
It doesn’t appear to use down, fur, angora, or exotic animal skin, which is positive, and it traces most animal-derived materials to the first production stage. There is still work to do here too for our animal friends, like reducing the animal-derived materials in its line.

Overall rating: ‘It’s a Start’

So, how ethical is Balenciaga? Overall, we gave it a rating of “It’s a Start” in our latest review. Similarly to its Kering siblings, Balenciaga needs to work more on its labour and animal welfare practices to improve its score in those areas. It could work to implement living wages in its supply chain and phase out more animal materials. We would also like to see a transition to a higher percentage of lower-impact materials in the range, and more work done to address waste in the supply chain.

Note that Good On You ratings consider hundreds of issues, and it is not possible to list every relevant issue in a summary of the brand’s performance. For more information, see our How We Rate page and our FAQs.

See the rating.

Balenciaga pre-owned is a decent option for your luxury fashion needs, but we’ve found some “Good” and “Great” alternatives to look into as well.

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Balenciaga (Pre-Owned)

Rated: It's A Start

Balenciaga is a luxury fashion house founded in 1919 by Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga in San Sebastián. The Kering-owned brand has been making some efforts to reduce its environmental impact, setting targets to reduce its direct and indirect emissions, and implementing initiatives to reduce water use.

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Shop Balenciaga Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

O My Bag

Rated: Good

O My Bag merges style and a responsible approach, creating vintage inspired, rugged-chic bags made from lower-impact, high quality materials. The Dutch label also uses non-toxic dyes in its products.

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Culthread is a UK-based clothing label that offers stylish, practical, and everlasting jackets and accessories from vegan and deadstock materials. Culthread's goal is to make quality coats and lifestyle products that you will want to wear and treasure forever.

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E.L.V. Denim

Rated: Good
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E.L.V. Denim transforms old discarded denim into modern, sophisticated, and even made-to-measure jean jackets, pants, and accessories.

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Every piece of ARTICLE22 jewellery is locally handcrafted in Laos using recycled materials from Vietnam War bombs, plane parts, military hardware, and other aluminium scraps. The brand embodies the innovation that the fashion industry needs more of—using recycled materials to produce beautiful globally marketable products, while equipping local artisans with new skill sets and providing them with a sustainable source of income. ARTICLE22 gives back to clear more unexploded bombs in Laos, supports traditional artisans, and donates a proportion of profit to community development for workers.

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Rated: Good


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ZEROBARRACENTO – White Recycled Wool Long Overcoat

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ZEROBARRACENTO – Soft Short Recycled Wool Trench Coat

This warming trench coat is perfect for cooler weather. It comes in a stylish, gingham pattern and is made from recycled wool. Exclusive 25% off the Soft Short Recycled Wool Trench Coat with code -25WHITE0/100XGOOD. (Ends: 16 MAY)

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ZEROBARRACENTO is an Italian brand that creates zero-waste clothes that celebrate the personality of those who wear it.

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Rated: Good
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SANTICLER is an US-based label that offers timeless collectors pieces curating modern silhouettes in womenswear. Founded by an early advocate of slow fashion and sustainability, its collections are designed and produced with intention to reduce waste, using more lower-impact materials such as GOTS-certified cotton and responsibly sourced wool.

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FUTURA Jewelry

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FUTURA Jewelry is a New York based responsible jewellery brand. Each piece of FUTURA Jewelry is handcrafted with mercury-free 18kt Certified Fairmined Ecological gold. The brand's gold comes from the three certified Fairmined mines in the world that mine for gold without the use of toxic chemicals including mercury and cyanide.

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Editor's note

Feature image via Unsplash, all other images via brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world’s most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet, and animals. We love to recommend some of the best more sustainable brands, rated "Good" or "Great". We also encourage shopping pre-owned as another great way to reduce the impact of our fashion choices. Use our directory to search thousands of rated brands.

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