THE ROUSTEING ERA : "HELLO OLIVIER, IT'S BEYONCÉ"
SEASON 2, EPISODE 1 :
THE FIRST BALMAIN FESTIVAL
“For me, music often functions like Proust’s famous madeleine: just a series of notes can trigger an avalanche of thoughts, inspirations and memories. It is impossible for me to imagine a creative moment or inspiration without thinking of its accompanying music.
Two years ago, it was that connection between my design work and music that helped pushed me and my team to bring our runway to whole new level. In 2019, we created a special Balmain moment that was as much concert as catwalk, when we decided to present the house’s men’s collection during Paris’ annual all-night music celebration, la Fête de la Musique. We built an ephemeral festival site inside the French capital’s beautiful Jardin des Plantes and mixed our models with some fantastic performances from some of my favorite international artists. 1,500 free tickets were available to those who wanted to join us. And donations from those guests, as well as the proceeds from the sales of limited-edition Balmain festival merchandise and food and drink offerings were donated to help (RED) and the Global Fund in their fight to end AIDS during our lifetime.”
THE SECOND BALMAIN FESTIVAL
“I loved every minute of our first Balmain Festival in 2019—and all I could think about when I woke up the following morning was how eager I was to start working on our next music festival.
But 2020 had different plans for all of us.
Now, finally, we do have the chance to reunite and experience once again the beauty of friendship, the power of music and the excitement of a Paris runway. That’s why I was so happy that my team and I were able to stage our Second Balmain Music Festival at the end of September 2021, at one of Paris’ finest music venues: La Seine Musical. Once again, our stage held a mix of musical and fashion creations.
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The surrounding ephemeral festival village was filled with food trucks, bars and merchandise stands. Reflecting this house’s commitment to a more democratic and inclusive modern fashion world, we greatly increased the number of Balmain Army members who could attend the Balmain Festival. In 2019, we were only able to offer 1,500 free tickets—but for 2021, we had an estimated crowd of over 6,000 people cheering on the runway models and performers.
And that’s one of the reasons why overlapping our celebration of the last decade with the Balmain Festival made such perfect sense. When the door opened for me in 2011, I was perhaps not the most expected candidate for a creative director position. 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.”
THE FESTIVAL PERFORMANCES
“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. Our second Balmain Festival definitely channeled that distinctive house DNA, with some of my favorite musicians joining our models on the special concert-meets-runway stage. The enormous audience cheered on performances from Jesse Jo Stark, who had a starring role in “Fracture,” Balmain’s recent streaming drama series, Doja Cat, who was on immediately after the runway concluded, and Franz Ferdinand, who finished up the special evening.”
THE FESTIVAL RUNWAY
“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—but nobody can stop them when they feel the need to push back. Their signature nonchalance was very evident on the Festival stage and, when paired with the collection’s sleek silhouettes, it’s that confident swagger that helps create this runway’s uniquely powerful and seductive vibe.
Our 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.”
“This new moment’s spirit of transparency and honesty helped 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 this collection’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.”
Olivier Rousteing recently wrote an article in British Vogue, telling the full story behind his accident and explaining how he discovered the transformative power of honesty, as he faced his fears during his long healing process.
A RETROSPECTIVE MOMENT
“Our most recent Balmain Festival was also, in part, a celebration of 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 decided to celebrate those ten years of nonstop challenges, creations and changes with a re-edition of a handful of some of my favorite looks. I will admit that looking at them, all grouped together, brings me great joy. When I was designing 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 today, at this moment, I can see that they are milestones of the journey that brought me to where I am today.”
A LAST-MINUTE ADDITION
“It wasn’t like everybody didn’t already have more than enough to do...
During the last days of September, each member of the entire Balmain team was at the end of his or her rope, after having worked frantically for weeks to pull everything together for the presentation of the house’s Spring 2022 collection during the closing-night concert of last fall’s Balmain Festival.
And that’s when I made the decision to throw one additional challenge into the mix.
I decided that Balmain would partner with Mert and Marcus, for the first time, in order to have the duo shoot the campaign images for those same spring designs from backstage at La Seine Musicale, the impressive Jean Nouvel-designed concert hall where our annual runway-meets-rock festival was taking place.
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I may not have made a lot of friends by throwing out all those extra challenges and so much additional work at the very last minute—but in the end, as our latest campaign make very clear, all that added tension and effort seems to have been very much worth it. I love what Mert and Marcus were able to capture from that moment—it’s a true behind-the-scenes peek at what was happening on the day before the big day. The duo’s photos have a raw, honest and snapshot-like quality, as the models— Naomi Campbell, Carla Bruni, Lara Stone, Mariacarla Boscono, Adut, Jordan Barrett and Fernando Casablancas—pose casually in front of backdrops of concert seating and the towers of suburban Paris. Our Balmain designs somehow appear even more seductive and sensual when paired with spontaneous, relaxed poses from the mix of legends who have inspired me since childhood and some of today’s most remarkable new talents—an incredible grouping that clearly reflects the strong, diverse and rebellious spirt of today’s Balmain Army.
The message of the collection that we showed last September—a joy-filled and extremely personal message about new beginnings and the impressive liberating power of honesty and healing—could not possibly have found a more perfect complement than these images. Many, many thanks to my very patient team for putting up with me and to Mert and Marcus for this wonderful campaign.”
Photo Credits :1 to 9: Francesca Beltran; Photo Credits 10 to 12: Maxwell
- 10 to 14: Boby
- 15 & 16: BFA
- 17: Balmain Team
- 18: Getty Images
- 19 & 20: Maxwell
Credits :Special Guest Audio: Beyoncé
- Balmain Creative Director: Olivier Rousteing
- Episode Direction and Production: Seb Lascoux
- Balmain Historian: Julia Guillon
- Episode Coordination: Jeremy Mace
- Episode researched, written and presented by John Gilligan
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