Cathy Horyn Paris Fashion Week Spring 2022 review: Balmain
Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Courtesy of Balmain
Considering that 6,000 people were waiting in the arena for the start of the Balmain show, Olivier Rousteing was remarkably calm backstage. We were in the Parisian suburbs on Wednesday evening. In honor of Rousteing’s ten years as the brand’s creative director, Balmain opened the show and concert to the public, with the proceeds from the tickets going to the Bono’s One charity. People came decked out in their Balmains, a glittering gold and silver rave punctuated with black leather and sci-fi spiked shoulders that Rousteing made a look on.
The big crowd at Balmain.
Photo: Anthony Ghnassia / Getty Images for Balmain
I found Rousteing backstage before the show. It took a bit of browsing – around the model lines, makeup artists leaning in and out with their brushes drawn, electrical cables snaking across the floor, and beefy security guys. But eventually, I reached the designer in a small enclave surrounded by curtains, where he had photos of each look, around 110, displayed on two large panels. Somewhere in the bowels of the arena, presumably in their own enclaves, were the stars of the show, including Naomi Campbell, Natalia Vodianova, and Carla Bruni, who would appear in Rousteing’s decade finale dresses at Balmain. Beyoncé was also there but only in spirit, having provided a prerecorded tribute.
“The collection is a celebration of freedom,” said Rousteing, in a black suit, fingers covered with so many gold rings. It probably sounds like rhetoric, but there is some truth to it. Very early on, when Rousteing, 34, replaced Christophe Decarnin, who had succeeded Oscar de la Renta at Balmain, we tried to put him in a box. The editors had loved Decarnin’s cool rock look. Rousteing’s clothes, on the other hand, were part fabulous couture, part daring streetwear. In short, it was easy to laugh at his over-the-top designs. Additionally, Rousteing was speaking to a new world: people on social media. He was one of the first high fashion designers to launch an Instagram page. He befriended the Kardashians.
Photo: Peter White / Getty Images
Somehow, Rousteing, who grew up in Bordeaux and adopted from an orphanage at the age of 5 months, has passed through one of the most hidden institutions in existence, the world of Parisian fashion. Admittedly, not all collections worked. He had seasons where his intentions seemed muddled, or maybe we just looked away. But as Beyoncé said, precisely, Rousteing continued to “push for a new mindset.” With Balmain, he opened the door to different types of people, different tastes and different body types.
As a spectacle, this celebration was significant. There is a difference between a massive show that includes the public and one that uses a public space for a private event, like Dior and LVMH did on Tuesday with their superstructure at the Tuileries. Clearly, a way of showing feels more human, and a metaphor for a society trying to come together after a crisis.
Photo: Courtesy of Balmain
But the collection was also exceptional. Behind the scenes, Rousteing told me, “I like not being categorized as body-conscious design. Yeah, we do that at Balmain, but we also do very well tailor – the costume is important. And there is also a sweetness that I want to push this season.
He did all of this and more. The opening looks covered the new trend of showing lots of skin, with cropped dresses and bra tops and a very pointy black bodysuit like an elegant cuffed waistcoat, worn with ultra-low pants. There were oversized styles for both sexes, in monochrome layers, that looked almost royal. They would look great on fashion-loving athletes, as would the oversized black leather jackets woven with different thicknesses of gold chains. Every piece in this part of the show was impressive. And for every extravagant look, Rousteing came up with a simplified one – for example, a white silk top with cutout shoulders and a sheer skirt embroidered with gold chains.
Photo: Courtesy of Balmain
The collection included elements of self-referencing. Last year, Rousteing was burned down in an accident and the experience (and salvage) led him to create draped mini dresses and tops in a shiny white material, much like vinyl or patent leather. , which vaguely suggested a plaster cast. There were chunky-soled sandals that hinted at a surgical boot. And there were classic bandage dresses in what looked like gauze. In reality, it was less bizarre than it seems. As he has done throughout his career at Balmain, Rousteing has responded to his instincts. The pieces seemed unique. Indeed, watching the show, I kept thinking about one thought: how much he gave, and how well he has positioned Balmain’s fashion so far.
Yesterday also marked the debut at Rochas of its new creative director, Charles de Vilmorin, who is 24 years old. Rochas has had several designers over the past two decades, making it difficult to know what the brand stands for. Vilmorin told me beforehand that he wanted to make “a happy collection”, and this meaning was certainly evident in the many ruffles, the metallic pleated fabrics, a sort of spicy rococo print in cotton (for long ruffled dresses). ) and leather riding boots. with – what else? – ruffles on the sides.
There is a lot of romance and feeling in Vilmorin’s work, and perhaps not enough clarity. But, as Rousteing demonstrated, it takes time to develop, and Vilmorin seems to have something worth waiting for to mature.