When is a garment overworked? Olivier Rousteing proved in his Fall17 Balmain collection that the answer may be never….it’s all in how you work it.
Rousteing’s latest inspiration was the t-shirt – a particular favorite for fashion lines of late to plaster quips and motivational sayings. But for Rousteing, it was less about writing a message and more about “creating a silhouette that demonstrates a woman’s strength better than words can do”. The result? Richly textured, decadent looks pulled from Mother Nature herself (another source of inspiration), in which you can often barely recognize any t-shirt in there. The intent, he said was to create an Amazon woman in celebration of feminine strength.
The looks were certainly an evolution beyond the curvaceous bodycon style that in my mind has so closely associated the Balmain brand with the name Kardashian. Which, perhaps turned out to be a double edged sword for Rousteing, who looks to be widely inclusive rather than creating a new exclusionary concept of beauty. This time, there were still fantastic bodycon silhouettes, but there were also layers – many layers and shapes that broke away from any mold.
Instead, the focus was on texture, in earthy organic colors of green, brown, gold, black. Many of these looks appeared as though they could have just grown out of the skin in tandem with the earth, as though the model had been laying too long near moss. It was actually a matte gold or garnet beading that was woven into a mesh. And over this, heavier beadwork filled in the gaps in certain areas, creating visuals of a lion roaring, or bird feathers arching across the body. It’s beautiful to see how these animals appear almost caught in the mesh with such tight beadwork. I think these are some of the most exciting looks. Just intriguing to look at.
Animals were another element, with a bevy of two by twos processing down the runway like it was the ramp to Noah’s ark. Zebra, snake, cow, wolf, sheep, tortoise, lizard…they were all here in some form of skin and scales, print, fur, and shearling. The sky high legging boots added to this motif, some in the zebra print that climbed all the way up to the rest of the look. That’s definitely a playful risk to be giving women zebra legs. Dimension was added to some of the looks with fringe, gold sequins in a matte finish, as well as crystal beading, and studs.
This isn’t just a collection of well-tailored designer dresses. These are in a category of their own. Works of artisanal craft, high fashion, and clothes that make a woman of any size or shape look and feel sexy. How Rousteing and his team have tapped into all of these elements so precisely at once is beyond me. How do you imagine all of these techniques, textures, and visuals at once? It’s obvious Rousteing is pushing himself and the Balmain house beyond what we ever expected, and the level of craft when you look at the detail is just breathtaking.