There is a snobbery in fashion directed towards Olivier Rousteing’s Balmain because it has a celebrity veneer. Kim Kardashian West, Kanye West, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner—the fabulous foursome, enshrined in our culture thanks to Twitter and Instagram. There is a celebrity culture element to Balmain, but isn’t that attached to most other houses too? Karl Lagerfeld regularly casts Kristen Stewart, Willow Smith, Lily Rose Depp as his modern muses and that’s lauded. Balmain should be too, especially seeing as the clothes were noticeably strong this season.
Foregoing his over-embellished, abbreviated princess dresses, Rousteing decided to strip things back for his Spring 2017 collection. There was still an emphasis on body-con dressing, draping and tailoring. What struck you as the models, led by Natasha Poly and Gigi Hadid, walked the runway amidst lush foliage was how they truly embodied Amazon goddesses, and not in a gimmicky way. Their supple figures, draped in swaths of airy fabric, in hues of ochre, cobalt, khaki, ready for a jungle sojourn. Wonder Woman, and the upcoming film, sprung to mind.
Rousteing celebrates superheroes—his superheroes. There’s the Kardashian Klan. Perched front row was Kim, her sister Kourtney, and ‘momager’ Kris Jenner, dressed in custom outfits for the show. Also in attendance was ex-model Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, editrice Carine Roitfeld. He further echoed this statement of superwoman with his powerful soundtrack, comprised of Natasha Khan’s Bat for Lashes, Rihanna, Tori Amos, Britney Spears, Adele. This amalgam of female singers signified the female empowerment that Rousteing wants to charge his women with.
He imbues the same empowerment into the clothing. Whether it be Gigi Hadid or Grace Bol, the models defiantly strut the runway. Although, they wear a poker face, they radiate a blend of power and beauty. Empowerment is oft touted in reviews by lazy fashion critics, who have almost dirtied the word, hence it so often appears. But it’s hard to dismiss that in Rousteing’s collection. He’s appreciating the women in his circles in a genuine way. (Last season, I bemoaned how out of touch the collection seemed with the times. It was perhaps the most embellished Balmain collection he’d done—this collection was an antidote to that, the reality check I mentioned he need.) What’s even more important is that these clothes are well-made, explaining the inflated price tag.
If Olivier Rousteing’s Balmain was to you as it was to me—a series of waist-cinching dresses with extravagant appliqués, heavy embroidery—this collection will kick you in the teeth but catch you before you fall. There was a subtle gracefulness to this collection, which is something we haven’t seen from Rousteing. Without damaging the consistency of his aesthetic, he managed to explore the unexplored areas of his well-defined world. Impressive.
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com