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Balmain Pre-Fall 2024 Menswear

“I don’t think there are many designers who can go back to a collection they did for their maison 10 years ago and refer to it in a new collection,” said Olivier Rousteing. He’s right: founder-designers like Giorgo Armani, Stella McCartney, or Junya Watanabe apart, Rousteing is indeed in rare company.

After Véronique Nichanian at Hermès menswear and Ian Griffiths at Max Mara, he is now the third longest serving gun-for-hire creative director in the runway racket. Jonathan Anderson at Loewe, Nicolas Ghesquière at Louis Vuitton womenswear, and Stuart Vevers at Coach have hit the decade milestone more recently than Rousteing. At Hermès (again) Nadège Vanhée should join that select few soon enough.

Although, in a business whose commentariat increasingly gets most het up about designer debuts, perhaps experience is moot? Rousteing demurred: “It’s important! You can’t tell a story or create a legacy in one or two seasons, or one or two years. And it’s kind of scary when I look around in the fashion industry today and see that there is no time [being given] for designers to create their own legacy.”

Rousteing inherited an already resurgent Balmain from Christophe Decarnin in 2011, and has in his tenure rocket-fueled that growth for the house, while designing a Balmain body of work that is also very much his own. This pre-collection was as oomphy as ever yet also benefited from the designer’s depth of experience. The general vibe was Miami-inspired—“yes, it’s always a good idea!”—and informed by the brash pastel art deco of that city as well as by references to Pierre Balmain’s tapestry-strewn Elba villa by architect Leonardo Ricci that was the subject of a house activation at last year’s Art Basel Miami. It was further enriched by many layered references to his harlequin Miami-meets-Cuba collection from spring 2013.

“This is a real Balmain collection, I’d say. There are some where I go away from the aesthetic of the house, and there are some when I go full on. This one is full on! There’s a lot of joy and a lot of confidence. And in a moment when there is apparently a lot of quiet luxury happening, we should not forget that maybe not everybody only wants a camel cashmere turtleneck.” Miaow!

Palms, those pastels, and some fabulous flamingos in flight were overlaid against the diamond check and silhouettes that were sometimes as wild and subversively exuberant as a lost Saturday night on South Beach. “This is my quiet luxury,” said Rouesting with an almost audible wink. And he’s still only just 38 years old, so not only more experienced in his role than almost every other jobbing creative director in fashion, but also younger than almost every other one, too.

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