Balmain is to fashion what the Kardashians are to pop culture - a sign of what the possibilities can be if restraint and regulations are ignored, a force setting the bar for decadence in an age where taste is synonymous with being discrete, cerebral and considered. It’s apt then that Kris Jenner was sat front row at today’s Balmain show. It’s also apt the Parisian fashion house has graduated from showing their menswear in the showroom and have moved on to the catwalk, a more public, theatrical forum, for the first time. After all, just like the Kardashians, Olivier Rousteing is unstoppable. He’s growing Balmain’s fame alongside his own personal fame one collection and one Instagram like at a time.
What better venue than the grand and gilded Hôtel Potocki, a palace that used to be the residence of the Polish noble family of the same name. It’s fitting that the venue has a history of royalty. Balmain dresses the new kings and queens of today - not just Kris, Kim and co, but also actors, models, football players and NBA stars, a couple of whom, including Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook, sat front row. They turn to Balmain for its opulence. It’s also apt that today the building is the seat of the Paris Chamber of Commerce. Rousteing knows how to make clothes that will sell - his classic military blazers sat alongside covetable combat-trousers-cum-tracksuit bottoms and draped white t-shirts that emphasised the physiques of his models, conjuring images of toga-clad Greek statues. Thanks to his own heritage, Rousteing talks of being a global citizen, a boy of the world, so why all the nods to one nation with those punchy Union jack sweaters and joggers? Well Balmain have recently opened their first London store, so what a good time to give the UK a shoutout.
That sense of a global view came through in other ways. Rousteing talked of being inspired by a traveller or adventurer, a man on a conquest. He used that to explain the dusty, sandy palette that underpinned the collection. He may have been thinking safari, but it was just as easy to read sex. These were fleshy tones, golden tan-hued pieces and rich browns merged with models’ own skin. Later the collection progressed to black leather - from skin to leather, how sultry. But no one does sexy quite like Rousteing - he’d recruited a bevy of female supermodels in skin—tight Resort pieces to help hammer that point home. So does the Balmain man suit the runway? Of course he does. Theatrical clothes need a stage - and Rousteing knows how to perform.