I’ve been looking forward to this date, February 28th, for a long time. Tonight is the Nuit des Césars, France’s annual awards ceremony, which honors the best of this country’s cinema. The film Wonder Boy, which follows my quest to finally get some answers regarding my history, has been nominated for a César for best documentary and to say that I’m honored would be quite an understatement.
As a child “né sous X”, an orphan who did not know his own origins. I grew up obsessed
with questions regarding heritage, race, belonging and fitting in. And that didn’t make my childhood any easier for me. Growing up in Bordeaux, perhaps the most bourgeois city in all of France, I learned from an early age that certain classes, clubs and cliques were closed off to someone who looked like me and I spent countless hours dreaming and scheming about how I could cross over, open doors and be accepted.
It’s inevitable that the time and effort dedicated to my recent search for answers as well as the many post-release interviews and conferences exploring the issues raised in that documentary have had an influence on my latest designs. Today’s runway makes that clear.
Many of the codes of a world that was once beyond my reach are key parts of this collection, including classic equestrian styles, harlequin patterns and silk-scarf motifs. Both the mix of colors (an abundance of cognacs and deep blues) and the rich fabrics (silks and cashmeres) are those associated with a rarefied world of old-families, privilege and wealth.
But, paradoxically, this collection adapts those symbols of upper-class exclusion and twists them to turn the focus on a wider and no-longer closed-off world one of open doors and open minds.
My team and I have subverted the old and restricting class codes of previous generations, rethinking and modernizing them in order to offer something fresh and very much of today an array of designs that is now open to all, one which reflects the inclusive values of today’s Balmain and the beautiful diversity of a truly modern France.
Of course, Balmain’s singular heritage remains very present. We’ve riffed on M. Balmain’s classic Jolie Madame silhouette and our iconic six-button blazer but each house signature has also been updated for next season’s offerings.
For example, our famed atelier has once again demonstrated its formidable tailoring skills via its one-of-a-kind treatment of Atsuko Kudo latex expertly pleating and draping the material, in order to offer a surprising and intelligent sensuality.
In addition, a new line of Balmain eyewear, developed in partnership with Akoni, is presented today. The many golden touches of this new range recall Pierre Balmain’s signature medallions and the high level of craftsmanship echoes that of our own workshops and, above all, the strong and audacious style and silhouette of the glasses reflect the assertive, confident spirit of today’s Balmain Army.
Those who have seen Wonder Boy already know what I have learned about my origins. And today, knowing that I am half-Ethiopian, half-Somali and 100% Français, I realize that my search for answers about my past has helped make it clear to me how happy I am to be living in this present, in this Paris of new possibilities, fewer boundaries and more inclusion. My runway today celebrates this and our hopes for an always improving, more open world.