Tuesday 20 February 2018

'I love seeing a Zara window with my clothes': Why Balmain’s Creative Director is happy for high street copycats

French fashion designer Olivier Rousteing for Balmain acknowledges the public at the end of his Spring/Summer 2013 ready-to-wear collection show on September 27, 2012 in Paris. AFP PHOTO/PIERRE VERDY
French fashion designer Olivier Rousteing for Balmain acknowledges the public at the end of his Spring/Summer 2013 ready-to-wear collection show on September 27, 2012 in Paris. AFP PHOTO/PIERRE VERDY
Freya Drohan

Freya Drohan

Unlike other fashion designers, Olivier Rousteing finds the high street’s imitations flattering.

While some designers seek patent protections to safeguard their designs from high street knock offs, Balmain’s Creative Director is happy to see how his work influences fast fashion.

"I love seeing a Zara window with my clothes mixed with Céline and Proenza Schouler,” he recently told The Independent. “I think that's genius. It's even better than what I do! I love the styling, I love the story... I watch the windows always, and it's genius what they do today.”

“I'm really happy that Balmain is copied – when I did my Miami collection and we did the black and white checks, I knew they would be in Zara and H&M. But they did it in a clever way – they mixed a Céline shape with my Balmain print! Well done! I love that."

The house of Balmain rose to prominence in the last decade thanks to its last creative director- Christophe Decarnin- who elevated the costly ‘trophy jacket’ to cult status.

Decarnin left the helm in 2011 due to ill health, leaving the hands to his assistant, 25-year-old Rousteing.

The designer wasted no time in updating the look and feel of the label, and working it into the wardrobes of glamazons such as Rihanna and Rosie Huntington Whiteley.

balmain rosie.jpg

"Of course, I am looking at the archive and I am always looking at the story of the house. I do not want to go too far away from their aesthetic," says Rousteing. "I do think my aesthetic is exactly what Pierre Balmain would do. When he invented the Jolie Madame or when he dressed jet-set women... I think today, I am doing the same thing in my own way. Of course, I love the archives. But now I think it is enough to look at the past; I start to think I need to mature and see different things. Paris is not so inspiring any more, I think. That is why you need to open your mind and go away from the past."

One of the few black designers working in the industry at present, he initially pursued a law degree before turning his interests to fashion taking up a position at Roberto Cavalli when he turned 18.

“Italy teaches you how to make commercial pieces, to be really commercial. It taught me so much about being fearless and super-reactive, and doing so many collections a year."

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Rousteing routinely looks to influential past collections to form his new season designs.

His spring/summer 2013 collection to Gianni Versace, and his latest spring collection was a nodd to Karl Lagerfeld's early-Nineties collections for Chanel.

"I think Balmain today is really a new generation brand, even keeping the tradition," he states boldly.

On the subject of his best friend Rihanna, he says she was a natural choice to front this season’s campaign.

balmain rihanna.jpg

"She owned the clothes. That's exactly what I want. I love seeing a woman, the feeling of a model, a top model. When you look at an old Versace show, you loved the dress, but you loved Claudia Schiffer, you loved Cindy Crawford. Supermodels! With Rihanna you get that too. Today people are looking at Rihanna like they were looking at Naomi Campbell or Claudia... That's the new dream. I think having Rihanna in the campaign is like having Cindy Crawford of Christy Turlington, but for my generation."

Perhaps this is why Rousteing applauds Zara, H&M, et al for their efforts to keep us on trendy when we can’t afford to shell out thousands on a Balmain original.

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Balmain Autumn Winter 2014

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