When Olivier Rousteing studied fashion in Paris, he never had the chance to interact with designers actually working in the industry.
“There’s a difference between learning from your studies, from your teachers, and having a designer or creative director coming and talking to you,” he said.
Balmain’s creative director hopes to rectify that with his new, yearlong partnership with the Istituto Marangoni in Paris.
“His advice will be very useful for anyone who wants to work in fashion,” said Valérie Berdah-Levy, director of Istituto Marangoni’s Paris school, whose programs include fashion design, fashion business, fashion styling and creative direction. “He’s very strong on social networks and what he did with Balmain is a kind of example.”
The multifaceted collaboration is still coming into focus, but is to include:
• a masterclass in front of the entire student body, numbering about 450, and possibly some alumni, in April;
• a new scholarship sponsored by Balmain for the academic year starting in October 2022, and
• student participation in the September installment of the Balmain Fashion Festival, which combines Rousteing’s seasonal coed show and musical performances.
Rousteing will also be invited to advise Marangoni staff on the school’s curriculum. “We want his expertise and his knowledge to help us from an academic point of view,” she said. “We want him to be involved in the programs and give some advice. He likes to propose new ideas.”
The designer, who has made inclusivity a key priority at Balmain, said he plans to “push and to help” in that area.
He also hopes to impart to the students how dramatically the role of creative director has widened to include “understanding the clients, understanding the climate, understanding what merchandising is, the schedules of fashion and the pressure of fashion and how to keep your feet on the ground.”
“Years ago a creative director would never mention business,” he said in an interview. “Today you can’t be a creative director and not talk about business, and even about politics and broader responsibilities in the world.”
Balmain has already collaborated with the Paris school in recent years. Rousteing delivered a lecture to students in 2019 and everyone was dazzled that the designer responded to every audience question and accepted every request for a selfie.
“It certainly strengthened the students’ motivation,” Berdah-Levy said. “Everyone admires his talent, but also him as a human being,”
In 2020, Balmain also sponsored a scholarship for one of the school’s masters students in fashion and luxury brand management.
For his part, Rousteing said he relishes the forthcoming “exchange of ideas” with students, and expects to learn a great deal about the new generation that has different dreams, interests, fights and visions.
“I’m telling you, I’m going to learn so much from them, as much as I hope they will learn from me,” he added.
As for the September fashion festival, Rousteing said he’s toying with the idea of co-creation with students, or having them customize Balmain items and selling them for charity.