Olivier Rousteing reached into Balmain’s heady past, dragging out sketches and prints — with paisleys — which he used to add extra pizzazz to an assertive lineup of brand staples: oversize suit jackets with sharp shoulders, tailored vests carved into snappy minidresses and statement outerwear — puffer coats in black leather or sequins and velvet, tweed capes and a cropped faux-fur number with jean trim. Armor, all of it, for next week’s paparazzi-ready Insta-star.
She’ll also be wearing thigh-high boots, easily paired with tweeds in bright red or electric blue, the gold buttons usually ran in twos, double-breasted suit style. Tartan fabric served as backdrop for couture pieces, the fancier versions embellished with elaborate, beaded patterns with swirly leaves and stylized paisleys.
Moving past bright tartans at the brand’s buzzing Paris headquarters — a downpour of rain and transport strikes did nothing to temper activity — Rousteing turned to the colorful, Eighties-flavored prints.
“It’s a psychedelic paisley — the paisley was something Monsieur Balmain used a lot,” he said. The designer drew on sketches harking back to the Fifties, which he sought to rebuild for today’s client.
So he worked the motif in a forceful palette of hot yellows and reds, throwing in some pale pastels, too, along with black-and-white accents on a long, velvet sequined ballgown. It was a fitted piece that showed off curves while covering the entire body, down to the wrists, over the toes, and up to the chin. Another rendition came super short, thigh-baring and shoulderless, with exaggerated sleeves jetting out from the upper arms.
For flow, the pattern was printed on an airy-light silk gown, and all-black velvet devoré, high-collared and cinched at the waist, with extra puff on the shoulder. Sure-fire bestsellers for future Madison Avenue shoppers, where the brand is readying a new flagship, due to open in April.
In less elaborate, and younger styles, the paisleys showed up on oversize printed T-shirts, bandana-style.
Cinched, tailored looks — many in signature black and white — included an electric blue jacket with an empty lapel that carried an Eighties flair.
Today’s luxury clients are also out for a bit more bang for their buck.
“People want to spend for a reason, and I think for years, they spent for a trend and now they want to spend for timeless pieces,” noted Rousteing. He gestured toward his answer — couture pieces in bright solids — hot pink, electric blue or yellow, with delightfully short and voluminous skirts that folded, swirled or spiked out, in clever, three-dimensional forms.
Rousteing said he is looking forward to having his documentary “Wonder Boy” hit the U.S. market — French and American production companies are still finalizing the choice of platform.
“I can’t wait to be there,” he said, noting he hopes it helps people to see beyond the caricature of luxury designers in towers, and understand that they have their own struggles.
“I come from an orphanage, so of course it was tough,” he said, before moving on to other topics keeping him busy, such as the recent Puma collaboration — “incredible sell-through” — but no word yet on who will be the new chief executive officer.