Thursday 1st October

| BY Claudia Croft

Balmain: Ready-to-Wear SS21

Olivier Rousteing thinks big and his Balmain show was epic. The designer celebrated 75 years of the brand with an ambitious, stadium-level, open-air production, held after-dark in the Jardin des Plantes. As well as a global social media audience, there was a live audience and a bank of screens showing the A-list virtual front row, including JLo and Cindy Crawford. Rousteing is a digital savant and this was a witty addition to the ‘phygital’ fashion week.

Rousteing immersed himself in the Balmain archives over lockdown and he started this 75thanniversary show with a group of veteran couture models sauntering down the catwalk in monogram print archive 1970’s designs, updated for the 21st Century by Rousteing. The esteemed fashion historian, Olivier Saillard curated this segment with an original voiceover of house founder, Pierre Balmain, talking about his audacious approach to design and how black was a colour of youth. Then the synth strains of The Weekend’s “Blinding Lights” struck up and a quartet of neon-clad models – two boys, two girls – strode out in Balmain’s SS21 silhouette – a unisex mix of huge Pagoda shoulders, an elongated jacket and kick flares. The strong shoulders are his response to waist-up dressing in the Zoom era. Waist down, those slinky flares or cycling shorts play into another big trend: Covid comfort dressing. But comfort zones come in different forms. For the Balmain girl, a level of sparkle is a basic requirement.

Two million crystals – the majority recycled found their way onto glittering pieces. Multi-platform, multi-layered and unashamedly over the top, the great achievement of the show was that it brought so many strands together. You could download a special Balmain soundtrack on Apple Music and even shop the live feed and be the first to snap up the new monogram clutch. From silhouette to viewing experience and commerce, Rousteing pushed every boundary.