Would fashion be all agog over highly decorated, nerdy girls in glasses if they were all over the place? Yin-yang, masculine-feminine, hard-soft, sexy-nerdy, the list of fashion’s historically juxtaposed delights goes on and on. Fashion needs creative counterpoint.
Fashion also needs sexy – certainly from a commercial perspective. Those two realities play to the strength of Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing. He holds high the flag of the fearless glamazon, she whose bloodlines trace back to the late Eighties/early Nineties power woman, all strong shoulder, stronger attitude and brazen sexuality. He’s developed the aesthetic with passion since taking over the creative helm of the house four years ago. Recently, Rousteing reviewed his still-young archive in preparation for his upcoming H&M foray and became ever surer of his direction, finding there “a unique Balmain DNA,” he wrote in his program notes. That DNA has made Rousteing a social media star (his own DNA, carrying the dreamboat handsome gene, doesn’t hurt, either), and should help to make his mass-market debut a blockbuster.
On Balmain’s spring runway, as always, supersexy was the dominant trait; discretion a full-on Darwinian goner. Rousteing loves tight and tighter, he loves a wide-belt cinched waist, and he loves new ways to show skin. He delivered them with flamboyant intensity — and increased polish — building most looks on sleek, knitted bodysuits, often with crisscross constructions that played bosom peekaboo. This allowed him to go wild with the collection’s other major concept: wide-open lattice that added graphic punch to the siren steam, high-texture tops and skirts, flat diamond cutouts and fishnet spins on the bodysuit. As a variation on the lattice, intricately wrought macramé gowns in tribal-looking patterns flaunted Balmain’s craftsmanship, no doubt beckoning to those high-profile ladies who like their red-carpet fare bare and bold, while a ruffle motif offered a soupçon of fluid diversity.
But not enough. In a short time, Rousteing has developed a strong identity, yet one too rooted in retro — not unusual for a still-young designer. Surely as he continues to develop, he’ll discover new ways to do sexy, ways that take the bloodlines in unexpected directions.