A quick scroll through my liked photos on Instagram and you will soon realise my obsession for all things Balmain. Watching videos of the Paris runway last week made me feel all warm and happy inside, but to be invited to actually attend a Balmain show really would be a dream come true. I always love to see Olivier Rousteing’s new designs and the Ready-to Wear collection at Paris Fashion Week did not disappoint, much like the stunning SS18 collection. Since he took over as Creative Director of Balmain in April 2011, Olivier has switched up the brands aesthetic, creating innovative, glamorous and edgy designs that are instantly recognisable; designs that have secured him a strong and loyal following of his self-proclaimed “Balmain Army.” An army that boasts members such as Kim Kardashian, Beyonce, Gigi Hadid, Cindy Crawford and Justin Bieber; his army is inclusive of a very broad and diverse demographic. Rousteing’s passion and appreciation for diversity led him to collaborate with L’Oréal Paris, a brand whose mission is to enable “all individuals to express their personalities, gain self-confidence and open up to others,” and a brand which celebrates diversity with each and every campaign. As one of the biggest designer labels to collaborate with H&M and with a wildly successful collaboration with L’Oréal under it’s belt, Balmain is accessible to everyone in some form. This, however, does not detract from its status as a high end brand. On the contrary, it increases it.
I was so hard pushed to select just a few images from the 2018 ready-to-wear collections, because I genuinely adore and have the utmost respect for every single design. The images I have selected are the ones which are most representative of my own personal style from both the SS18 and AW18 catwalks. The joy of Olivier’s designs is that, as glamorous and out-there as they are, the garments are all completely wearable. Some may say you would require a certain level of confidence to pull them off, but if I owned any of those pieces you better know I’d be out sipping on cocktails in iridescent trousers and a sequin blazer! For me, Balmain is probably the label that most closely resembles my own style. Every collection I see, I feel it embodies who I am in so many ways, a little bit edgy with a little bit of glamour, a combination of feminine and bold, strong and soft, and exudes my inner sparkle. If I could wear my personality on my sleeve, I’d be wearing Balmain. Rousteing contrasts textures, fabrics and styles to create designs that come alive with movement, using structured ruffles, feather embellishments, leather and spangles, with some of his iridescent fabrics resembling the ripples of a lake under a winters sunset. Unlike the SS18 collection, which was mainly composed of monochrome ensembles, the AW collections is an array of metallics, neon colours and holographic PVC. When he envisioned these creations, Rousteing imagined the year 2050, and injected a futuristic element to his designs for the Fall collection.
The Palais Garnier was the location of the SS collection, a location that meant a lot to Rousteing. He visited at the age of ten with his adoptive parents on his first ever trip to Paris. They watched the ballet and seeing the dancers sparked something inside Olivier. He realised a love for fashion and design. For his Fall collection, Olivier deployed his Balmain Army down the stunningly glamorous runway, beneath an array of chandeliers at the Paris City Hall. The transparent heels that the models walk in with such ease dug into the plush white carpet, which bore a striking resemblance to the soft snowfall on the ground here in the UK, making me feel even more connected to the runway of dreams. The opulent, majestic design of the Paris City Hall perfectly complimented the collection, as the futuristic garments and neon fabrics stood out in contrast with the historical interiors, but seemed to blend in simultaneously with the sumptuous fabrics, metallic and vibrant painted details and the twinkle of the chandeliers. Rousteing calls his army an army because he admires and respects strong women. Placed at the head of his proud army, he emanates his own strength and vision. A strength which is reflected in his designs, which celebrate the female shape with tight, structured dresses, but also with soft, loose fabrics that hang elegantly and move at ease with the bodies that fill them. Design is the language in which Olivier chooses to express himself, the language in which he is most certainly fluent. And we are all listening intently.