Olivier Rousteing’s tenure at Balmain has lasted more than a dozen years, but he’s still “found faith” in the brand, he says. “I’m living a new chapter almost every day,” the designer said during a tour of the showroom. The designer’s name is now more closely associated with Rousteing than the founder’s signature—a signature that, decades if not a century later, remains the lifeblood of other legacy brands. When it comes to Pierre Balmain, few people can think of catchphrases like “jolie madame”.
Now that Rousteing no longer has to prove himself, exploring Balmain’s heritage opens up a new path. That could mean a sculptural “Madame Julie” jacket with rounded shoulders and a cinched waist, or culottes in a statement-making combination of red, light blue and mint. or lamé jacquard leopard print. There’s even a hat inspired by ’50 and ’70, shown here in its true traditional size. That could mean an oversized twist on a lavaliere blouse. Or it could be a sculpted leather top, or take details like archival embroidery or crystal brooches and blow them up into a full skirt.
Life after the pandemic has brought about a sea change, the designer is famous for. “Chic and comfort take on a new meaning every decade, and today things have changed,” says the designer. “During Covid, it was loungewear. Now, people want to wear something more unique.” When you already have tens of thousands of hoodies, a special jacket has a fresh appeal, Rousteing Compare it to a work of art, although that art is less about hidden wealth (let alone normative core) than it is in your face.
“If it’s not part of your DNA, there’s no point in jumping on the same bus,” he said. The same goes for men. After a century of borrowing from menswear wardrobes, womenswear is now making a comeback. “It shows that the norms of humans are changing,” said the designer.
While Rousteing’s muses include Josephine Baker, Brigitte Bardot and Beyoncé, the American Dream is also a through-thread. Those who love his minimalist style will love one of the most dazzling collections the designer has produced to date. Take, for example, a jacket with one of Monsieur Balmain’s signature constructions—a padded jacket now reimagined in the form of crystal tassels with the Stars and Stripes. Decorative embellishments borrowed from the denim lexicon were exaggerated into ornately embroidered jackets, sheath dresses or trousers. Beige and black patent-leather jackets were relatively minimal, allowing the designer to show off his architectural chops. Some staple pieces, including a sharply cut python-print leather trench coat, are likely to go fast. It’s probably no coincidence that Texas features heavily in the brand’s retail strategy: stores are opening in Dallas and Houston in September.
“The new American dream is that you get to redefine it all the time,” the designer offered. “To me, the American Dream is the freedom to be whoever you want to be.”