PARIS — Having targeted high-street shoppers via his recent collaboration with lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret, Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing is now reaching for the top-tier customer by introducing a red carpet capsule collection.Named 44 François Premier after the Paris address of founder Pierre Balmain’s original couture atelier, the line consists of 11 evening looks. Its launch during Paris Couture Week, in the middle of awards season in the U.S., is calculated for maximum exposure.While Rousteing himself is closely associated with the Kardashian clan, the brand has dressed celebrities as diverse as Hailee Steinfeld, Lupita Nyong’o, Jane Fonda, Beyoncé, Cindy Crawford and Meryl Streep. In a preview at Balmain headquarters in Paris, the designer said he was aiming for timeless looks.“When you see the craftsmanship and the architecture of my dresses, they are more like armor or glamorous protection. With this collection, I wanted to make very light and elegant eveningwear, knowing that we get a lot of requests from celebrities that are in my circle of women I love,” he told WWD.“I also wanted to return to the origins of Monsieur Balmain,” Rousteing added. “It’s very pleasant to work on a collection in this way, because you don’t try to respond to a trend or a moment.”He homed in on classic house codes, with a focus on sharp tailoring, lustrous embellishment and plays on transparency. The gold button jacket, a staple of the house in recent years, has been reimagined as an off-the-shoulder gown with a pooling train.Meanwhile, a classic trenchcoat was the inspiration for a split-front sequined black dress with crystal trim. Nude tulle dresses covered in crystal sequins trace out a neckline that plunges below the navel, or spiral strategically over the bosom.“It’s a game of now you see it, now you don’t,” Rousteing said. “The dresses will come with a silk lining custom made to match the wearer’s skin tone, so it remains something extremely exclusive where we cater to each individual.”Despite the upscale positioning, the collection is destined to be sold in Balmain stores.Having dressed Nyong’o for the National Board of Review Awards in New York, Balmain is setting its sight on Hollywood. A selection of gowns will be sent to Los Angeles on Friday for fittings with actresses in the run-up to the Oscars on March 4.“It’s opening up yet another new dimension for Balmain,” said Rousteing, who in the last year has juggled projects as varied as designing a color cosmetics line for L’Oréal Paris and creating costumes for a ballet performance at the Paris Opera.“I love my job because I’m able to cater to a whole range of women. We might make more than 3.5 million lipsticks at less than $20 that speak to the young girl who is a fan of Balmain, but we are also able to create couture dresses that appeal to different customer,” Rousteing noted. “It’s incredible working for a brand that can speak to women of all types and ages."
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