In the end, the promised media frenzy did not come to pass: Kylie Jenner, who was supposed to oversee the makeup at Balmain’s show in Paris on Friday, canceled her appearance. “Unfortunately I’m really sick and unable to travel. I’m heartbroken to be missing this show,” she wrote on Twitter.
Backstage before the display, creative director Olivier Rousteing put on a brave face. “It’s OK. Next time,” he said, adding that he still expected massive demand for the Kylie x Balmain makeup collection due to launch online the same day. “I think the site will crash,” he confidently predicted.
With Jenner’s mother Kris in the audience to ensure the smooth launch of the family’s latest business venture, the monochrome looks that opened the show were designed to provide a canvas for the pastel lip color and eye shadows — which made it somewhat puzzling that most of the models wore large rectangular sunglasses.
Rousteing said the collection was a tribute to the style of the late Nineties and early Aughts, as seen through the prism of pop culture. “Fashion is always referencing the Eighties and the Seventies, but there is a new vintage that for me is the 2000s,” said Rousteing.
“It was Kylie who taught me that. Talking to her about my references, I realized that what speaks to me doesn’t speak to her. Her idea of vintage is the music of my generation,” he said. “My Donna Summer is her Beyoncé.”
The “Crazy in Love” video inspired the vivid color palette of the middle section, while a cropped black rhinestone turtleneck and flares nodded to Britney Spears, whose “Baby One More Time” played as four models in colorful double denim formed a Nineties throwback tableau on the Op Art carpet at the Paris Opera.
Rousteing said he also delved into the archives of founder Pierre Balmain. But with its profusion of optical effects and circular motifs, the lineup recalled nothing so much as Pierre Cardin, the pioneer of the Space Age look.
There was also a nod to Roberto Capucci in the pleated gowns in vibrant shades of tangerine, emerald, citrus, purple and cobalt blue. It was hard to parse those references with the profusion of showbiz-friendly tricks — think dropped shoulders, one-legged pants, and grotesquely oversize jackets — that completed the lineup.
Rousteing is aware he’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
“I call Balmain the guilty pleasure, because it’s not a brand that follows trends. It creates its own codes, and for me, it’s important to remain true to yourself. Sometimes people like it, and sometimes they don’t, but I always say I’d rather be disliked for who I am than liked for who I’m not,” he told WWD ahead of the show.
His philosophy was summed up by a T-shirt featuring a positive/negative portrait alongside the slogan: “Own Who You Are.” The statement was particularly poignant, coming a day ahead of the screening of “Wonder Boy,” the documentary in which the adopted designer sets off on a painful search for his roots.
It’s probably no coincidence that this overstuffed collection was searching for its identity, too.
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