Numéro: Let’s start with your autumn-winter 2018–19 show, which was set in 2050. How do you imagine the future in 30 years’ time?
Olivier Rousteing: I’m not sure if I imagine the future... I imagine my collection. In any case I imagine strong women, more triumphant than ever, which is already happening. And a digital world of holograms. The idea behind the col- lection was clothes that play with light, that you perceive differently depending which angle you see them from. A world where everything is faster and faster. It’s what’s happening now, and I think that in 2050 things will go even faster. I wanted to look to the future because I’ve had enough of fashion that constantly seeks refuge in the vintage. We’ve arrived at a point where the cards have been reshuffled, and the new generations are challenging the older ones. My collection was born of this observation.
At the Coachella festival you dressed Beyoncé, whose stylist wanted a military theme. And a few years ago you came up with the idea of the “Balmain Army.” Moreover certain critics have cited the movie Mad Max with respect to your last runway show. Where does this fighting, con- quering spirit come from?
It came over the course of the collections. When I was appointed ar- tistic director in 2011, I didn’t have this desire to fight. At the beginning, I played the fashion game, and when I decided to be more faithful to who I was, I was heavily criticized, which affected me. That’s how the Balmain Army was born, female warriors with strong personalities. My muses are also like that. Fashion can sometimes be a fight where you have to push your ideas all the way to the end. Today I’m not so much at war, I’ve become much calmer.
“When I started using it, a lot of people criticized me: “It’s vulgar, how can you expose yourself so much?” But people need reality.”
During the runway show there was a T-shirt marked “We are the new generation.” You became artistic director at Balmain at 25, and today creative types in all fields are finding success in their 20s. How do you view this youth power grab?
I’m very happy to see all these young people who are doing all these things. The difference for me is that I was young in a French luxury house with a strong heritage and history. When you have a heritage to preserve, you have to satisfy the critics and attract new clients without frightening the old ones. When I started, I tried to please everybody. Then I took a step back, and tried to please myself. Moreover, what the critics and the fashion élite like isn’t necessarily what sells. If I’d followed their advice I would have risked being out of a job three seasons later. [Laughs.] For the golden rule in fash- ion is that you have to sell, and it’s also my rule. I am indeed part of the new generation, and today Anthony [Vaccarello], Virgil [Abloh] and Demna [Gvasalia] are in the same situation as me. Nowadays I don’t feel quite so alone.
Very early on you started using Instagram, which has totally reconfigured the whole fashion business. Did you anticipate such a radical change?
The Internet age frightened everybody in fashion. But I’m from a generation who thought it was great that you could buy clothes in just one click on the web. And I used Instagram as a means of communication, waiting for the moment when everything would naturally converge on the same platform – sales and communication. When I started using it, a lot of people criticized me: “It’s vulgar, how can you expose yourself so much?” But people need reality. We don’t just need to buy things, we also need to feel a connection with other human beings. Today I’ve stepped back a little, because some of the spontaneity has gone from Instagram. Everyone has understood that business is now done through communication, and firms specialized in strategy have taken over social networks. I feel that it’s something of a backwards step, so I’m not terribly convinced where the future of Instagram is concerned.