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Olivier Rousteing tells us about the Balmain menswear spring-summer 2017 show

 

Olivier Rousteing, the young designer at Balmain, continues to fuse opulent luxury with influences from every horizon.

Olivier Rousteing by Kevin Tachman

 

With his lavish runway show of 80 silhouettes (men’s and women’s), Olivier Rousteing reaffirmed his clear cut vision of the Balmain identity, all while exploring colours and ornamentation with an overt joie de vivre. The artistic director caught up with Numéro to divulge his influences and hopes the day after the brand’s acquisition by the Qatari Mayhoola investment funds. 

 

Numéro: What was the main idea behind your spring-summer 2017 collection?

Olivier Rousteing: This collection is inspired by the idyllic images of beach life. More precisely the images of models I follow on Instagram. My Instagram feed often gives the impression of being just one endless beach. The sunsets as they happen live, the anticipation of a new dawn... There's something very poetic about it all. It’s the image of a new story that's just beginning and that's also obviously what's happened with the acquisition of Balmain. I wanted to show a new silhouette, new colours, push the limits of menswear. The Balmain man is a global, universal man, who travels enormously and is naturally curious. 

 

In the space of just a few menswear shows you’ve established a very contemporary and instantly identifiable figure: the layering of contrasting lengths, sarouels and leggings, soft materials like suede and washed cottons… Do you feel this is an identity you’ve created?

This is only my third menswear show and I am so happy there’s a recognisable identity. Conceiving a silhouette is the hardest thing for a designer. I think it just comes from my personality: I’m very impulsive and instinctive. When I think about something, I take it to its logical conclusion. I think that’s the power of the Balmain men’s line: its instantly recognisable thanks to this mix of effortlessness and very classic touches. The Balmain man wears sweatpants with a double-breasted jacket. I think that’s also a reflection of Monsieur Balmain who was known for his strict tailoring, but also his couture savoir-faire. I try to represent this blend of classicism and French flamboyance. 

 

The Balmain man is daring and decorative with garments like the embroidered poncho you showed or the braided jackets, all part of the Balmain DNA.

Absolutely, and it’s very important for me to pay respect to this aspect of Paris, the City of Lights. I want the collections to be luminescent, not only in terms of embroidery and the ornamental touches, but also in the joie de vivre and an assumed way to play with light. 

 

 

You’re a figurehead in fashion right now and you play on that with spirit and humour. After the stunning success of your H&M collection, came your collaboration with Nike playing with your initials, OR [‘or’ also being French for gold]… How do you perceive your position on the Parisian fashion scene today?

That’s an interesting question because I see Paris as a cosmopolitan city open to influence. But most of the designers who have made Paris weren’t born here! I’ve travelled a lot, been influenced by American and Asian cultures… But essentially I feel utterly Parisian. Sometimes I get criticised for moving too far away from the image of Parisians but in my eyes that’s absurd because I simply don’t recognise myself in that sort of rigid vision impervious to outside influences. 

 

Your front row is always a diverse sampling of the male population…

Yes it is. There are sportsmen, pop stars, hip-hop stars… The growing turnover for the Balmain menswear is a reflection of this diversity. Whether it’s Ricky Martin, Kanye West or Lewis Hamilton, what these men all have in common is their natural self-assurance. 

 

 

It’s very rare for a women’s brand to become so successful so quickly with its menswear.

I think the secret lies with coherence, in the fact that I do both lines. That’s rare. Now we’ve developed Balmain Kids, and I am likewise just as involved as with all my collections, trying to communicate what it is I like and what I believe in. 

 

 

You’re very much a public figure with your Instagram account and some say that Olivier Rousteing is bigger than Balmain. What do you think?

I think the question is irrelevant. It’s true that I’m heavily involved with my collections, which explains why today there’s a face attached to the Balmain brand – mine, that of a 30-year old man. But I think it’s my very freshness and youth that adds this twist to a brand that’s perceived as a traditional French house. This generational clash makes for interesting alchemy. 

 

What inspires you about the acquisition of the house?

In spite of writing beautiful chapters I’ve had to deal with professional and personal criticism – especially because I’ve put my face up front and have always wanted to embody the brand. Some challenges have been very difficult. But I am proud of what I’ve achieved and I can’t wait to start on the new chapters and tell new stories.

 

www.balmain.com

 

Interview by Delphine Roche

 

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