“What’s wrong with being happy and spreading joy and colour and print?” asked Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing, before revealing a spring/summer 2024 collection that was the antithesis of fashion’s current obsession with quiet luxury. Anders Christian Madsen reports from Paris.
It wasn’t quiet luxury
A new climate of simplicity is setting the mood on Planet Fashion this season, calling for an unfussy essential wardrobe. “I know that everybody right now is about quiet luxury, which is obviously an important topic, but I think what people should care about is the strength of identity and DNA. Because there’s one thing you shouldn’t lose no matter what the trends are, and that’s who you are,” Olivier Rousteing said, before a Balmain show that blew a kiss at that toned-down mentality. Backstage, he emerged with a new look of braids. “You may look at me with this hair and go, ‘What happened?’ But this is who I am. I don’t want to try to play minimalist designer because at the end of the day, I’m not. And I always say I’d rather be hated for who I am than being loved for who I’m not.”
It showed off Balmain’s expert tailoring
The opening of the show could almost have fooled those who thought Rousteing might play to the new purified fashion tendency. A series of tailored looks demonstrated – without much surface decoration – the Balmain atelier’s expert cutting, expressed through the sculpted, ferocious lines of Rousteing’s hyper-Parisian aesthetic. “If you ask me what the show is about, it’s about French luxury through my point of view, translating Monsieur Balmain’s legacy, starting with strong tailoring: simple jackets but many hours of work to make sure the shoulder and lapel are right,” he said. “Maybe people know me more for my embroideries, but if I die tomorrow, I want to be remembered for my tailoring.”
It was all about flowers
Impressive as Rousteing’s tailoring was, his show will be remembered for something else. Quoting Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada, the designer gestured at looks covered in flower embellishments and prints: “‘Florals for spring? Ground-breaking.’ Actually, she was right. But I tried to really continue the legacy of the house, which I started last winter, and just reminding people of this house from 1945.” Rousteing reworked Balmain’s archival floral motifs in metal flower encrustations, super bold prints, bags and shoes sculpted like bouquets, and made-to-order pieces like a bustier with sweeping bejewelled glass branches and rosebuds. A bustier and dress were adorned with flowers made out of recycled plastic bottles.
It was a message of joy
In a season of simplicity, Rousteing kept it real by keeping it maximal. “I want people to remember me like the light of the Eiffel Tower. But I don’t think I’m just a maximalist designer,” he said. “People love to put you in a box and make you follow one direction. I think I’m over it. I just want to be me. This collection is about happiness. I want to talk about joy and happiness, and that’s a bad thing in fashion where happiness is not the right word. Then you’re ‘superficial’. But what’s wrong with being happy and spreading joy and colour and print?” As far as Cher, Kylie Jenner and his many illustrious clients on the front row were concerned, absolutely nothing.
Robbers stole parts of the collection
Rousteing’s collection wasn’t all roses. Ten days before showtime, a truck transporting a number of finished looks from Charles de Gaulle airport to the Balmain studio was carjacked by armed robbers, who stole the collection. “What hurt me the most was that the driver had been traumatised,” the designer said. A few days ago, three out of the 50 stolen boxes were found near Villepinte. In the meantime, the Balmain studio had managed to recreate about 70 per cent of the missing looks. “It’s the nightmare of any designer, but thankfully I have a great atelier who work really hard,” Rousteing said.
This article was originally published on Vogue UK.