On September 28, 2011, a 25-year-old stranger named Olivier Rousteing made his first bow for Balmain. At the time, there were many “who had difficulty imagining someone who looked like [him] could run a Parisian fashion house. That’s what Beyoncé says in her (pre-recorded) opening message for Rousteing’s 10th anniversary show tonight. She was right, and how wrong they were.
During its early years, Rousteing was repeatedly dismissed as Fantasy Island or vulgar or trash, and in retrospect the subconscious subtext is both clear and damning. This annoyed him with good reason. He worked twice as hard. But when in about 2016, five years later, Rousteing, the first black man to run a historic French house, matured enough in himself to consider these “enemies” not as wounds but as badges of honor and scars of the good fight – go for it! – he gained a super power. He realized that the furious noise was the angry creaking of the hinges of a door that had never opened until he pushed it open. So he kept pushing.
Tonight there was still noise. But this time around 6,000 people – real people, not fashion people – screamed when Rousteing bowed at the end of this show. They screamed almost as loud when Beyoncé started talking, and almost as loud again when Naomi Campbell stepped into the capsule premiere of a dozen archive-based looks we saw at the end, spinoff. Rousteing’s favorite and most effective pieces. last decade here.
Fascinatingly, they also shouted with more enthusiasm. The collection – intoxicating Saulted by Michel Gaubert – was a celebration when Precious Lee and Alva Claire – two models whose bodies are larger than conventional fashion’s spurious sample size limits – paraded. As the comments under the newspaper fashion articles demonstrate, real people shy away from the super skinny fashion fetish, and rightly so. Or as Rousteing said, “I’m glad you hear them screaming too. I think this shows that the fashion industry sometimes comes too late to understand that this is the new world. And how beautiful it is to show the reality and the difference, and to leave the standard that we have learned to understand is fashion.
The show had such a huge audience because it was billed as the heart of a two-day music festival hosted by Balmain – Doja Cat was immediately after the clothes, before Franz Ferdinand ended the night. As for the other houses in Paris grandiloquently trying to drop their bombshell, this democratic display of openness was pretty hard to beat. The collection we saw was ready-to-wear for women and men, a prelude to this special section of archives, opened by Campbell and closed by Carla Bruni, before Rousteing’s raucous curtsy.
The collection was festive, but, as always at Rousteing, also honest. The things I reacted to the most were the sensuality of the backless seam in men’s clothing, the comfortable appeal of its Insta-friendly slides, the square link chain details that were the metaphorical connecting point to through the collection and the framing of the female body which, unlike some collections we have seen this hormonal season, felt more festive than salacious.
The latest dresses in the ready-to-wear section reflected another recent truth from Rousteing: During the lockdown, he suffered severe burns, spent a month in the hospital recovering, and treated for altered pigmentation on his skin. Consequently. After storing this knowledge in private for a while, he threw it into his process tonight, thus possessing it by denying it through his expression in crafting. “Fresh, daring, stimulating,” is how Beyoncé described Rousteing in her preamble. She was still right.