With his new collection for H&M, Balmain’s head designer, Olivier Rousteing, is bringing haute couture glamour to the high street. Jo Linehan travelled to Paris to meet the man who is modernising the French couture house.
The Balmain woman is … Powerful. When you wear Balmain, you feel strong. It’s like armour. She is a glamorous warrior.
Staying confident in the industry is a daily challenge When I took over at Balmain, I wasn’t ready – I was so young! – but when you do something big, you have to believe in yourself. People can be really tough with you, whatever your age. It helps me to look at my social media feed and see the reaction to the clothes. As long as the buyers and customers are happy, so am I.
People ask me, “Why a high-street collection?” I tell them that everyone deserves to own a piece of fashion history. I trained with Roberto Cavalli and was with him when he collaborated with H&M, so I knew I wanted to do it myself one day. Ten years ago, I was the boy waiting in line for the collaboration. Now, I’m designing it. I know that feeling of waiting patiently to get a piece of a brand you can’t afford. Creating this collection reminded me of that feeling.
I have big plans for my next collection This collection with H&M feels like the end of a chapter for me. My resort collection is all about beige and camel. I’m ready to be challenged in a new way with colour, texture and fabric.
It was hard to match my haute couture vision on a budget As a designer, I’m used to having whatever fabric I wish for at my disposal. I can demand 200 pearls on a dress if I so wish, no questions asked. It was a learning curve to have to choose different fabrics and rethink my techniques.I would never settle for less than perfect, even with those constraints. I am really proud of the result.
The women I dress are everything to me I cast African, Asian, American, French girls to walk in my shows. I can dress Kendall [Jenner] and Kim [Kardashian] and now I can also dress people who dream of wearing our clothes, but who can’t afford to do so. Loving Balmain today means not only loving the fashion, but also pop music, pop culture, diversity and globalisation, and that’s what Balmain and H&M share in common. We are abolishing exclusion. I stand behind everyone I have ever dressed and everything I align myself and the brand with.
I asked Kendall and Jourdan (Dunn) to debut the collection at the Billboard Awards I needed them there to hold my hand! They are my friends, above all else, and I needed my support system with me for that moment. The Billboard Awards represent everything that Balmain stands for – style, pop music, pop culture – Rihanna was performing, Kanye was performing. It was the perfect debut.
When I think about how this collection will be worn… I think of Michael Jackson wearing women’s pieces in the 80s and Rihanna wearing menswear pieces today. That is how the collection will be enjoyed – mixing menswear and womenswear, whatever way you want it.
Social media is the new world and I’m embracing it My #BalmainArmy are my supporters. The hashtag is so important – it’s how we’ll all share the Balmain experience. What I love about fashion today is this feeling of togetherness.
I had never created baby clothes before North West But when Kim came to me and told me she dreamt of having North in Balmain, of course I had to do it. I don’t have any plans to create a kidswear line right now – for me, North is my absolute favourite person and I want that [collection] to be just hers for a while.
People think what I’m doing with Balmain is controversial But I have no regrets. All good business ideas come from your soul and your heart. I believe in what I’m doing.
This article was originally published in the November issue of IMAGE Magazine.