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.
Fri, March 6 2020 » Fashion Blog
It’s the last few hours before the runway. In a chaotic-yet-scheduled rush, the final stitches, castings, mixes, seating everything is all coming together, as it somehow always manages to do, in a jumble before each show. As I sit in the Balmain showroom, I watch the many different teams buyers, marketers, PRs and partners flip through the racks. And, I keep hearing repeated references to classic bourgeois French styles.
It’s true, you can definitely spot riffs on those signature codes of the upper class including rich silk scarf patterns, soft cashmeres and the classic navy pea coats. That’s inevitable. This is France, after all, and these are looks that Paris fashion houses, in general, and Balmain in particular, have always known how to expertly play with for the perfect aspiration-meets-fashion collections.
Those showroom comments push me to reflect on themes and questions that have long obsessed me, ever since my childhood, in perhaps what is the most bourgeois city in all of France, Bordeaux. As a child “né sous X” an orphan who did not know his origins—naturally, I grew up fascinated by questions regarding heritage, race, belonging, fitting in and, yes, the bourgeoisie. That didn’t make it easy for me. Certain classes, clubs and cliques were very clearly closed off to someone who looked like me which only made me obsess more about how I could cross over, open doors and be accepted.
Those who know me and those that have seen the film ‘Wonder Boy’ know that today I do know my origins. And, today most of us can celebrate the modern, more open society that we now live in. So, while I do continue to love to play with the beauty and style of France’s classic signatures (always adding the necessary modern touch, of course), I do so knowing that as a 1/2 Ethiopian, 1/2 Somalian and 100% Frenchman there’s an incredible beauty to be explored in the wider world beyond those classics.
Paradoxically, this collection often riffs on classic bourgeois signatures, (which are often symbols of limited access), as it focuses on the beauty of a wider, border-free world one where the doors and minds are open a bit wider. We start with one basic truth: this is a tiny and beautiful planet, belonging to all. Here, we all share the same origin, needs and desires and any borders, (both figurative and literal), only serve to wall us off and limit us. That’s why this collection celebrates, at its heart, the beauty of the earth and sky. The runway will be filled with modern-day nomads, who are navigating seas, plains and dunes, while awed by the dazzling magnificence of the galaxies above and the earth’s tones below.
As I worked on the final looks over the holidays, the clear need for all of us to focus on that natural beauty was made even more evident to me. Watching wildfires burn and hearing about glaciers continuing to melt makes it clear that we are perhaps too focused on the small issues, while ignoring the very real danger of losing the beauty that’s right there, just in front of all of us.
Sun, February 2 2020 » Fashion Blog
Balmain © Copyright 2019
BALMAIN SPRING-SUMMER 2020: TALKIN ‘BOUT MY GENERATION
Is my generation’s nostalgia for our turn-of-the-century childhood culture somehow less cool than fashion’s more familiar fixation on the ‘70s and “80s?’
That’s the question that has been bouncing around the Balmain studio and offices, as my team and I worked on this Spring-Summer 2020 collection.
We all know that fashion has been happy to rely on vintage inspirations over the past few decades, with designers mining the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s for statement pieces and entire runways. But, for some, styles from the late nineties and early aughts somehow seem too recent to consider for revivals — perhaps due to a feeling that those looks need a bit more of the filter of time that always helps to smooth out past eras’ fashion bumps.
Nevertheless, we’re going there this season — and Balmain’s riffing on the distinctive sounds, spirit and styles of my youth is more than just a simple exercise in nostalgia for me. I’d also like to celebrate the transformative power of that moment.
Sure, I love to be reminded of the old hits that I listened to over and over again as a kid — but now I realize that the artists behind my collection of scratched CDs were often manifestations of a new type of American Dream, resulting in a different sort of pop culture than that of previous generations.
Back then, for me — a black kid growing up in the provinces — just being able to listen to and see someone like Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child was incredibly empowering. Their success made it clear to me and others like me that you could actually “cross over” and be celebrated as a talent by all, while never having to compromise your pride in your origins or play rôles that others expected of you. Ideas that once might have been revolutionary were presented to us as simple facts — and always paired with the most addictive of melodies.
And it’s those addictive melodies — from Beyoncé, as well as artists like Britney, Christina and JLo — that are the ones associated with the looks that inspired this collection. This runway looks to the styles that my team and I remember and which we are more than ready to begin celebrating. We are happy to be able to embrace a past that we can actually remember, instead of once again turning to established references that can only be researched through archives.
Of course, this being Balmain, these turn-of-the-century explorations might look to my youth, but they rely on the masterful craftsmanship and singular tailoring skills that only a true Paris atelier is capable of. The famous Balmain embellishments have been given a decidedly modern touch for this runway, with the addition of the fine jewelry pieces that my team and I have designed, using extraordinary sustainably created diamonds from Diamond Foundry, the world’s only carbon-neutral diamond producer.
We believe that Diamond Foundry’s commitments to sustainable creation makes them the perfect partner for Balmain, complementing this house’s well-known dedication to fighting for inclusion, empowerment and the democratization of fashion. We’re proud to be the first Parisian house to work with Diamond Foundry and we look forward to including their diamonds in our upcoming runways.
A second collaboration for this collection is particularly close to my heart. As you may have already heard, Balmain recently teamed up with my friend, Kylie Jenner, for a new Kylie x Balmain Cosmetics line, which is being released today. After working closely with Kylie on that offering, it became clear to both of us that our new collection was the perfect one to rely for this runway. Of course, we had hoped to have Kylie here in Paris with us today — but the most important thing is that she takes care of herself and gets better soon.
Olivier Rousteing – 27 September 2019 Paris
Tue, October 8 2019 » Fashion Blog
Thu, June 27 2019 » Fashion Blog
Balmain© Copyright 2019
We don’t praise female trouble-makers nearly enough. Yes, of course, the fashion world adores nonconformists. We’re inspired by the greats that have beautifully rebelled artistically or sartorially. Season after season, we channel the spirit of rockers who have never given a damn and style icons with signature attitudes.
But my runway today celebrates a different, invigorating and new type of rebellious spirit, one adopted by increasing numbers of today’s young women. For inspiration, my team and I look to the self-assured women of my generation, who demand control and are not content to simply push back instead, they revel in pushing forward, (while also pushing every single button along the way).
This new attitude might have had its origins in the recent necessity of donning new defensive armor for battles that we had hoped were already won, but it has rapidly evolved, as our young rebelles grow increasingly aware of their own great power, celebrate their strong voices and demand to be heard.
This collection riffs upon that fresh, fierce resolve, that demand for control and love of bold action. And, just as today’s trouble-makers have shown us, first impressions sometimes fool those who haven’t yet wised up. So, train your eyes look past the feminine and flouncy skirts, the sensual tops and the Easter-egg pastels and focus on the underlying new spirit of this collection.
The tough-girl vibe is sometimes easily spotted and, just as often, cleverly hidden. Examine the expertly quilted leather skirts, for example, and what may at first appear to be a repeating pattern reveals itself as spiky, menacing studs. Yes, there are flowers but fashioned from patent-leather, they add a dark toughness that’s perfect for this rebellious mood.
Throughout, the mastery of the Balmain atelier is always evident. Eager to build upon learnings from couture, our craftsmen continue to push me in new directions, urging me to bend the rules that they’ve mastered so well. This runway relies on surprising deconstructions, sculptural shapes, incredible tailoring, skilled leatherwork and extreme embellishments.
I’m proud of my entire team’s efforts, as we’ve worked to ensure that our creations match the level of daring of today’s trouble-makers.
Mon, March 4 2019 » Fashion Blog
Sat, February 2 2019 » Fashion Blog
Tue, March 6 2018 » Fashion Blog
Balmain © Copyright 2017
The Show Must Go On.
It will surprise absolutely no one to hear me say that music forms an essential component of Balmain’s singular and recognizable style. For as long as I can remember, music and fashion have been completely intertwined—that’s simply how my generation grew up. I cannot conceive of one without a full helping of the other.
Knowing that, it may also not be the biggest surprise to see that today’s show follows, roughly, the classic trajectory of a rock anthem. Opening with the relaxed ease of layered knitwear that builds upon last season’s slouchy silhouette, our diverse runway steadily escalates—moving through plays of camos, denim, studded leathers, plaids and graphic black-and-whites—before finally ending with a full-throated roar that accompanies rich colors paired with an impressive offering of the type of detailed embellishments that our atelier is celebrated for.
The runway’s final crescendo underlines this collection’s debt to the spirit and style of the hardest of the ‘80s hard rockers—men who paired hyper-masculine, who-gives-a-fuck primal screams with eye-catching looks that consistently challenged accepted standards and fluidly crossed over the barriers of outdated gender norms. That daring confident style pulses through today’s runway, its soundtrack and, of course, the collection itself.
After a year marked by a series of tragic losses of those legends whose unique talents, rebellious nonconformity and incredible styles marked us all, this reminder of the liberating power of music feels particularly right for today.
Tue, February 21 2017 » Fashion Blog