Viva Las Vegas…and budding young fashion talent. In an assured debut at the house of Balmain, 26-year-old Olivier Rousteing continued to carry the torch for all the things for which his predecessor stood, minus the grime and plus a glimmer of sunshine.
Before exiting the fashion house after a six-year stint in March due to health problems, Christophe Decarnin sent Balmain down a rock ’n’ roll path with thigh-skimming dresses, big-shouldered jackets and lean jeans — all gilded to the hilt and destined for some overpriced nightclub in Moscow or London. “It’s still superrich and superglamorous,” Rousteing, who worked at Decarnin’s elbow since 2009, assured during a preview. “It will be an evolution.”
Rousteing said he wished to turn the page from hole-riddled T-shirts and tattered jeans to play up Balmain’s sophisticated couture roots. To be sure, his ode to Sin City — crossbred with bullfighters — exalted the house’s ateliers with dense, 3-D embroideries paving snug matador jackets, and embossed gold or black leather married seamlessly with white suede for blazers or bustiers.
But Rousteing also suggested a wider fashion vocabulary for his Balmain, parading some sweeping button-front skirts in pale denim, and loose leather pants he playfully called “joggings.” The designer didn’t travel to Nevada for inspiration, instead researching Nudie Cohn, who created stage costumes for country-and-western performers in the Sixties. Besides channeling the obvious glitz of casinos, Rousteing also referenced less glamorous Vegas surfaces: motel wallpaper patterns worked into in white cloqué jeans and blazers; tattered floral bedspreads worked into sexy minidresses, the flowers sprouting gold chains at their stamens.
Before the show, Rousteing said he finds it important to absorb the whole of the house’s heritage, including collections by its last couturier, Oscar de la Renta. Asked if he saw himself as a budding Nicolas Ghesquière, who started out as a hidden talent at Balenciaga, Rousteing exclaimed: “I can only cross my fingers and hope for such a career!”