Balmain’s Spring 2022 Collection Marks A Decade Of Olivier Rousteing’s Creative Leadership Of The House
This is my most personal presentation to date
That makes perfect sense, of course. Today, we’re marking my tenth anniversary as Balmain’s Creative Director. It’s a role that I stepped into when I was just a kid, (oh my god, just 25 years old!),way back in 2011. And it has been a responsibility that has controlled every moment of my life for the past decade—but, obviously, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.We’ve decided to celebrate those ten years of nonstop challenges, creations and changes with are-edition of a handful of my favorite looks. I will admit that looking at them, all grouped together, brings me great joy. When I was designing some of the earliest of these, as an occasionally overwhelmed twenty-something, I definitely would have laughed if someone would have told me that someday I’d be showing them as part of my retrospective—but at this moment, I can see that they are milestones of the journey that brought me to where we are now, in 2021.Today also marks a return. We’re returning to IRL runways, presented live to fashion friends and colleagues (and, actually, many more people than that—there’s ± 6,000 guests attending this second Balmain Festival). After more than a year of pandemic fears, restrictions and enforced separations, we’re relieved and beyond grateful to finally be able to safely celebrate, together.So, in many ways, I see this moment as a key date—we’re regrouping, saluting a past chapter, and moving forward into a new era. And that new era is all about freedom.
Now that we’re at the end of this pandemic (knocking wood), we realize how much it has changed us. We’ve all learned way too much to ever go back to the way it was before. There’s a fresh, strong desire for accountability, honesty and liberty in all spheres—including how we live, dress and act.
That new mood aligns perfectly with the bold spirit of this house. The Balmain Army has always had its ranks filled by passionate rebelles who are stubborn troublemakers. They’re most comfortable when they are pushing forward and nobody can stop them when they feel the need to push back.
Their signature nonchalance is very evident on today’s stage—and, when paired with next season’s sleek silhouettes, it’s that confident swagger that helps create this runway’s uniquely powerful and seductive vibe.
It’s probably this new moment’s spirit of transparency and honesty that has pushed me to add some very emotional touches to this collection, with many elements referencing a recent accident and long recovery. A year ago, I suffered some painful burns in an accident. Hospital rooms, bandages and gauze wraps suddenly became a big part of my life—and as I began sketching, I found myself translating those months of doctors and physical therapy into today’s many bands, weaves and dangling straps. In addition, the sets of multiple golden bands that you’ll spot adorning the models’ hands riff on the ring sets that I adopted to help hide my scars during recovery. By embracing that previous pain and celebrating the power of healing, somehow I’ve been able to translate them into beautiful components of my designs.
In addition to that reflection on recovery and renewal and Balmain’s signature insouciance, these men’s and women’s designs highlight this house’s famed savoir-faire, with sharp cuts, precision tailoring and some more-than-impressive artisanship from both the Balmain and the legendary Maison de Lesage ateliers. Their mastery of traditional Parisian couture arts can be seen in many examples of superb metal weaving, ruching and quilted leathers. And those expert craftspeople have made it very clear that Parisian finesse can encompass the latest 21st-century breakthroughs, as well—with innovative molding techniques skillfully adapted to create striking 3-D and draping embellishments on next season’s offerings.
You’ll note that I’ve channeled quite a few Y2K inspirations—especially the music and musicians of the late nineties and early aughts. Those were my formative, teen years—and now, with the passage of time, I can see that the pop creations that I once dismissed as “guilty pleasures” were sometimes, actually, pretty impressive. In particular, this runway riffs on the many powerful female singers of that period, whose beauty and talent were only enhanced by their audaciousness.
Music and musicians, of course, are always important for Balmain—and they have been ever since the earliest days of the house, when Pierre Balmain was dressing the greatest performers of his era, including Juliette Greco, Dalida and the legendary Josephine Baker. During my ten years at the house, my team and I have seamlessly woven music and fashion together, season after season.
Today’s second Balmain Festival builds upon that distinctive house DNA, with some of my favorite performers joining our models on this special concert- meets-runway stage. The house’s first festival, two years ago, helped bring our dedication to music, fashion and the fight against AIDS to a whole new level. We were all incredibly disappointed when pandemic realities forced us to cancel 2020’s festival—which explains our high-level of excitement, knowing that we will once again experience the beauty of friendship, the power of music and the excitement of Paris fashion week. We’re taking full advantage of that excitement to continue helping our long-time partner (RED) raise needed funds for the Global Fund to fight against two pandemics: AIDS and COVID.
Overlapping our celebration of this last decade with the Balmain Festival makes perfect sense. When the door opened for me in 2011, I was not the most expected candidate for a Creative Director.
Since then, I have been determined to use this opportunity and position to keep pushing for further change. I’ve worked to ensure that Balmain’s presentations, workspaces and campaigns reflect the true diverse beauty of today’s world. And runways, which were once limited to just a lucky few of fashion insiders, are now open to more and more fashion lovers. Today’s festival will be shown live to over 6,000 Balmain Army members.
Over the next ten years, I pledge to continue to push for more inclusion, more democracy and more openness. Here’s to the next decade of sharing our joy-filled signature mix of fashion and music with more and more of those who wish to enter into the Balmain universe.
29 September 2021