Balmain’s spring show ended with not one, but two finale walks by Olivier Rousteing’s “Balmain army” of models — the second, a gleeful storming of the runway around Rousteing to Queen’s rousing “Under Pressure.” It was the kind of over-the-top, prolonged bow that made you wonder if you missed the memo that it was a special anniversary show. (It wasn’t.)
The collection was deliberately outrageous — excessive by the standard of extreme excess that Rousteing has set since he arrived at the house. His intention was to push the limits of his artistic vision and his atelier’s technical capabilities for one simple reason: This is Paris. There’s a lot to live up to.
“I’m not obsessed with trends, I’m obsessed with being French, Parisian,” Rousteing said before the show. “Sometimes when people don’t understand what I’m doing and why I’m pushing the couture to the next level in a weird way, it’s like, this is me, this is Paris.” Being surrounded by the city’s supreme art, sculpture and architecture — the obelisk in Place de la Concorde; the Pyramide du Louvre — moved him to attempt sartorial sculptures of his own. Tops and dresses done in splays of pleats haloed the body in round shapes reminiscent of Issey Miyake. Bra tops, bustiers and bodices in metal and leather were molded over the breasts and torso. The silhouettes looked cut from stone with hard, angular shoulders that jutted out from jackets that ranged from long ones in flowing silk robes hip-length styles in metallic tweeds. Dresses were short, tight and tough in three-dimensional helix patterns that looked like glass, and gauzy bandages that were indeed inspired by mummies. Paris’ many historical sculptures, columns and monuments, inspired by or actually taken from the ancient world, got him thinking about Egypt.
The level of imagination, craft and construction was undeniable. So was the fact that, with their searing, rigid lines and glut of embellishment, there was no apparent earthly function for many of these clothes (unless you are Lady Gaga on a promotion tour). But Rousteing has no interest in being down to earth. He wants to make history, like the Egyptians. “I don’t care about being cool,” he said. “What I care about is, do you think in 100 years people will remember what I did, what I said, what I do?” To that end, the show certainly left an impression.