MARKING a decade as creative director of Balmain, Oliver Rousteing has revolutionised the French fashion house helping it become of one of the leaders in the industry once again. In 2011, at the young age of 25 years old, the unknown collaborator of Christophe Decarnin rose from the sidelines and into the limelight as he took over the reigns of this influential brand.
Admitting there were challenges, changes and bumps on the way to now celebrating ten years, the designer is taking a moment to breath, reflect and honour what he has already achieved.
“I definitely would have laughed if someone would have told me that someday I’d be showing them as a part of my retrospective” explains Rousteing about re-editioning some of his earliest looks for Balmain. “At this moment, I can see that they are milestones of the journey that brought me to where we are now, in 2021.”
Not only is this a retrospective but a return to the runway. Or as Rousteing states in his show notes: “saluting a past chapter, and moving forward into a new era. And that new era is all about freedom.” The SS22 collection exists to sum up a lot, to say a lot about different things and yet it is deeply personal to Rousteing.
He wants to celebrate what he has achieved obviously but at the core of him and the brand is this fiery necessity to spread a message about inclusivity and originality, a message that says welcome in the most couture tone – something intrinsically linked to him.
As touched upon, this is a personal collection injected with emotional references to his life. Notably, the designer uses a recent accident that resulted in a long recovery due to burns on his skin as inspiration to some of his designs.
The bandages and gauze wraps went from reminders of something painful to him transitioning into a positive outlook and seeing the beauty of this moment.
Thus, gold bands are seen on models’ hands as rings mirroring how he had those on his own to hide the scars, which now for SS22 illustrate the power of healing through fashion.
With recovery and renewal strong themes weaved within the collection, a resurrection of famed Balmain signatures such as sharp-cuts, precision tailoring and extraordinary savoir-faire moments, in collaboration with Maison de Lesage’s ateliers, hint at the origins of the house as Pierre Balmain’s nickname was the ‘king of French fashion’.
Utilising this monumental show during Fashion Week, Balmain is taking full advantage of its huge Balmain army, audience and buzz by raising funds for the Global Fund to fight AIDS and Covid-19.
Looking forward at our future as a whole, Rousteing’s leaves us with one final important note about what he wants to see over the next decade: “I pledge to continue to push for more inclusion, more democracy and more openness.”
If Pierre was the King then it goes without saying that Olivier Rousteing deserves the title of Prince. His applaudable ability to look beyond the four walls of fashion and into culture and society has allowed him to spend a decade at the forefront of French luxury fashion due to his understanding of what people want while providing it through the lens of Balmain.
And on that note, long may he reign.
by Imogen Clark