Olivier Rousteing watched American Westerns growing up in France, and he wishes there were movies available like “The Harder They Fall.”
The stylish and violent new Western, out Nov. 3 on Netflix, tells the story of rival gangs of Black cowboys, and Balmain’s creative director got to play a part: He designed a few pieces, including ponchos, that were integrated among the costumes created for the film by Antoinette Messam, and a spinoff collection inspired by the spirit of the movie.
The Balmain x The Harder They Fall Collection, spanning men’s and women’s ready-to-wear and accessories, is to go on sale in tandem with the film’s release on Netflix.shop, Farfetch.com, balmain.com and select Balmain boutiques.
Balmain bills it as Netflix’s first luxury fashion collaboration, with Rousteing insisting that fashion only becomes more relevant when it’s integrated “with today’s most compelling stories and music.”
“It was such an interesting challenge for me,” he said in a phone interview on Friday. “It’s another way of presenting fashion.
“It was also interesting for me as a French designer to get inspired by the American West,” he added.
To be sure, “The Harder They Fall” brings to light the fact that as many as a third of American cowboys were Black, many of them newly freed slaves who headed west in search of a better life.
“I was really pleased to work on this project so that the next generation, when they start watching Westerns, they will find a different point of view,” Rousteing said.
The designer lauded filmmaker Jeymes Samuel for “helping to give the genre a much-needed push forward” by embracing historical truths and exalting them with cutting-edge filmmaking techniques, a stellar cast and an “extraordinary soundtrack” thanks to Shawn Carter, aka Jay-Z, one of the movie’s producers.
The designer added that he’s happy to see “among the many strong Black leads are powerful and fascinating female characters.”
Idris Elba, Regina King, Jonathan Majors and Zazie Beetz are among the stars of a film that opens with the disclaimer: “While the events in this film are fictionalized…These. People. Existed.”
Rousteing’s take on Western-style blends some cliches of the look, including fringed suede and denim, with luxurious touches and the finesse of runway looks. Cue hundreds of grommets and intricate lacing on a fringed suede bolero jacket, and big gold buttons and epaulettes on a jeans jacket.
New for him is a palette hinged on browns and rust shades.
Men’s looks include a suede perfecto with fringed sleeves, a tuxedo jacket shaped like a bathrobe and sneakers with harness-like straps and a sole shaped like a horse hoof.
Samuels describes Rousteing’s fashions for Balmain as “kickass” as the film with his “take no prisoners” approach, and its commitment to equality and inclusivity. “The brand hasn’t come to play, it’s come to make a statement,” he said.
Other fashion figures shining a spotlight on Black cowboys and cowgirls include Beyoncé, who credited them for inspiring her latest Adidas x Ivy Park collection, which has a rodeo theme, and Tommy Hilfiger, who featured the Compton Cowboys, a group of Black horseback riders who use equestrian culture to positively influence inner-city youth and combat negative racial stereotypes, in a recent campaign.