Exclusive interview of Olivier Rousteing, photographed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino with Gigi Hadid
Perfectly reflecting his times and his generation, designer Olivier Rousteing has brought a breath of pop air to fashion house Balmain. Numéro met the talented young couturier whose personality is just as seductive as his clothes.
Numéro : So where were you born, beautiful child ?
Olivier Rousteing : In Bordeaux.
Were you an adorable little cherub or one of those unfortunate newborns with cradle cap and hair on their chins ?
I was adorable. Ah no, now I think about it, I was fat. But I lost it very quickly.
At school were you more a dunce or a swot ?
I was excellent, always top of the class. I usually got 19 out of 20. A real prodigy. I passed my baccalauréat a year early with a distinction.
Did you have a lot of friends at the time, or were you a pariah in the playground ?
At primary school I was quite popular – I was the “puppy” everyone liked and thought was cute. In secondary school I was hated by everyone, but at sixth-form college I was a leader.
What did you do to make everyone hate you at secondary school ?
Nothing, except being different from everyone else at an age when kids don’t understand.
Different in what way ?
Different because I was into fashion, different because I had particular tastes… I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was more feminine than my classmates, but I liked to look after my appearance, and I always wore the latest fashionable brands. I must have come across as a bit of a spoilt child, and the other kids were probably jealous. What’s funny is that a number of them now send me private messages on Instagram telling me they adore me. Revenge is a dish best served cold…
How did your parents react when at 16 you told them you were leaving home ?
My father was against it, my mother supported me. My parents wanted me to be an attorney in international law. In the end I opted for the internationalpart, but not in law. I went up to Paris where I fell on my feet pretty easily – my parents supported me financially and I’ve a lot of family in the capital. So a lot of people were looking out for me. My biggest shock was moving to Italy: my parents stopped supporting me, and I had to do internships and dance in clubs in order to survive.
I don’t know which is worse...
When I danced in clubs, I was dressed, let me be clear. It was a funny experience because I was working at Roberto Cavalli’s at the time and I had fittings with [the designer] Peter Dundas until one in the morning before having to run off and change and go to the nightclub with my clothes in a bag to earn e150 a week. Which is how I paid the rent. I danced on a podium, and sometimes people would come and stub out their cigarettes on my thigh. […]
Interview by Philip Utz, photo by Jean-Baptiste Mondino.
The December-January issue of Numéro will be out on December 1st.