Olivier Rousteing’s tenure at Balmain has lasted a dozen years already, but to hear him tell it he’s still “finding confidence” with the house. “I live almost every day of my life like a new chapter,” the designer offered during a showroom visit.
It may ring counterintuitive, but it takes confidence to dive into the archives of a designer whose name is now more closely associated with Rousteing than it is with a founder’s signature—the kind that, decades if not a century on, remains the lifeblood of other heritage houses. Mention Pierre Balmain, and few would be able to summon a catchphrase like ”jolie madame.”
Now that Rousteing no longer needs to prove himself, exploring Balmain’s heritage opens up a new path. That might mean sculpted ”jolie madame” jackets with rounded shoulders and nipped waists or culottes, in statement-making combinations of red, light blue, and mint. Or leopard print in lurex jacquard. Or even hats inspired by the ’50s and ’70s, shown here in their true-to-heritage dimensions. It might mean an oversized twist on the lavaliere blouse. Or it might be a sculpted leather top, or taking details like archival embroidery or a crystal brooch and exploding them into an entire dress.
Post-pandemic life has brought a sea change, the designer noted. “Chic and comfort take on a new meaning every decade, and today things have shifted again,” the designer observed. ”During Covid it was loungewear. Now, people want to wear more unique things.” When you already own a zillion hoodies, a special jacket holds fresh appeal that Rousteing likened to a piece of art, albeit art that’s less stealth wealth (let alone norm-core) than in-your-face.
“If it’s not part of your DNA, there’s no point in jumping on the same bus,” he said. That goes for men, too. After a century of borrowing from men’s closets, women’s wear now is returning the favor. ”It shows that the codes of humanity are changing,” the designer said.
While Rousteing’s muses include Josephine Baker, Brigitte Bardot, and Beyoncé, the American Dream, too, is a through-line. Those on his maximalist wavelength will delight in one of the star-spangliest collections the designer has produced to date. Take, for example, a jacket with one of Monsieur Balmain’s signature constructions—a nip-waisted jacket now revisited with a lashing of stars and stripes in the form of crystal fringe. Ornamental trim borrowed from the cowboy lexicon is blown up into lavishly embroidered jackets, bodycon dresses, or pants. In a comparatively pared-back vein, a jacket in beige and black patent leather let the designer show his construction chops. A few workhorse pieces, among them a sharply cut python-print leather trench, will likely move fast. It is probably not coincidental, either, that Texas looms large in the brand’s retail strategy: September will see the opening of outposts in Dallas and Houston.
“The new American Dream is that you get to redefine it all the time,” the designer offered. ”For me, the American dream is being free to be who you want to be.”