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Olivier Rousteing In at Balmain

A key deputy of Christophe Decarnin at the French fashion house, he has been appointed designer of its women’s and men’s ready-to-wear collections.

PARIS — Olivier Rousteing, a key deputy of Christophe Decarnin at Balmain, has been appointed designer of its women’s and men’s ready-to-wear collections, the French fashion house disclosed on Tuesday.

This story first appeared in the April 27, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

This confirms a WWD report on April 22, after a report earlier in the month that Balmain was parting ways with Decarnin, famed for his audacious, ultrasexy and ultraexpensive designs, and would name an internal candidate to succeed him.

Rousteing has been in charge of the women’s wear design studio at Balmain since 2009 and previously worked for Roberto Cavalli for five years.

Balmain chief executive officer Alain Hivelin said he looked forward to this new era for the house. Decarnin left abruptly amid reports the two men had widely divergent views on the fast-growing company’s strategy and future direction.

“I am convinced of Olivier’s talent and ability to build upon the successes of the house. He begins his new task with a great understanding and appreciation of the unique DNA of the brand,” Hivelin said.

The painfully shy Decarnin was absent from Balmain’s fall-winter 2011 show last month, under doctor’s orders. In his five years at Balmain, he revitalized the brand with thigh-skimming dresses, gauzy T-shirts and ornate embroideries that flew off the shelves despite their eye-watering price tags, though some critics had started to question the longevity of this approach in the postcrisis era of understated chic.

As for his appointment, Rousteing said, “I plan to honor that confidence by ensuring that Pierre Balmain always remains one of the leading brands that others look to as a reference,” although he did not elaborate on his vision for the house.

Founded in 1945, Pierre Balmain has seen its fair share of turbulence in the past decade as it shuttered couture operations, emerged from a Chapter 11 debt-protection filing and weathered a revolving door of designers in the rtw department.

Oscar de la Renta wound up a 10-year stint as Balmain’s couturier in 2002, and the list of rtw designers included Gilles Dufour, Andrew Gn, Laurent Mercier and Christophe Lebourg.