Ten Defining Moments of Olivier Rousteing’s Decade at Balmain
Has it really been 10 years already? This week marks a decade since Olivier Rousteing joined the house of Balmain as creative director. On April 26, 2011, it was announced a starry-eyed, 25-year-old Rousteing would replace Christophe Decarnin at the helm of the house after spending two years in charge of Balmain’s womenswear design team. As the youngest creative director of a major Parisian house, it’s safe to say the stakes were high. But boy, did he deliver.
“I always say that I was the Balmain baby. Now Balmain is my baby,” Rousteing told Claudia Croft inside the latest issue of Ten, having spent a large chunk of the pandemic reflecting on what a journey it has been. Rousteing has played a pinnacle role in reshaping the world of fashion as we know it. Diversity on the catwalk is a pillar to his creative vision and a growing community across social media has been a key to his success. He has also harnessed the power of celebrity: his evening wear practically demands the flashing bulbs of the paparazzi.
Whether it be couture clientele on the streets of Paris, or fashion-obsessed twenty-somethings in the North of England, Rousteing’s dedication to total glamour has made women feel at their best across the globe. Here, we look back at the moments which have shaped his Balmain story.
A supermodel reunion
Rousteing has been pedal to the metal these past 10 years when it comes to creating iconic fashion imagery. Working with renowned names such as Steven Klein and Mario Sorrenti in the past, Rousteing has graced the pages of the glossies year after year with supermodels by the plentiful. A standout? The brand’s SS16 campaign – lensed by Klein – orchestrated a reunion of the original supers, as Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell towered like glamazons. Campbell would also stand beside Iman and Rihanna in W Magazine’s September 2014 issue.
Rousteing keeps up with the Kardashians
The Kardashian/Jenner bunch have been beside Rousteing on every step of his Balmain journey. We could’ve dedicated this entire piece to Rousteing’s relationship with the world’s most famous family, but we’ve narrowed it down to five-starstudded moments.
1. For Balmain’s AW16 campaign, Rousteing teamed up with Kanye West to create the ‘Wolves’ music video, starring both Kim and Kanye, alongside fashion-week favourites Joan Smalls, Jourdan Dunn and Dilone, to name a few.
2. For the 2016 Met Gala, Rousteing’s future-facing evening wear slotted in perfectly with that year’s theme: Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology. Rousteing not only dressed an eyebrow-less Kim, but Kanye, Kendall and Kylie, too – as well as Cindy Crawford, Alessandra Ambrosio, Jourdan Dunn and Doutzen Kroes.
3. As the world eagerly awaited the marriage of Kim and Kanye in 2014, Kim K stepped out on the streets of Paris on May 22 for her hen night, wearing a Balmain couture minidress which’s sparkle out-shun the Eiffel Tower. It was a custom iteration of a look that first appeared on the catwalk of Rousteing’s first autumn/winter show for the house (AW12).
4. Sisters are doing it for themselves! Kendall and Kylie posed alongside Gigi and Bella Hadid, as well as Joan and Erika Smalls in the brand’s AW15 campaign, shot by Steven Klein.
5. Making his first foray into the world of beauty, Rousteing teamed up with Kylie Cosmetics in 2019 for a glistening make-up collection inspired by the iridescent hues of the designer’s first couture collection for the house (more on that later).
The birth of the Balmain Army
Although Rousteing has had many iconic moments on the catwalk, the designer’s AW14 collection is seminal to his legacy at Balmain. Met with rave reviews, the fierce fashions on display marked the birth of the Balmain Army – as the power walks of Joan Smalls, Jourdan Dunn, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Binx Walton marked a new era for the esteemed house. On Balmain’s YouTube channel, Rousteing spoke of how the show changed both his life and career.
Victoria’s got a Balmain Secret
And off to Shanghai Rousteing went, alongside our editrix-in-chief Sophia Neophitou-Apostolou, for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show 2017. As well as producing a slew of custom, eye-grabbing looks that were worn in the show, Balmain released a limited-edition Victoria Secret capsule collection – which was the first time the lingerie juggernaut partnered with a luxury house on that scale. Oh, and have you seen the backstage karaoke videos?
Cara bares all
Rousteing adores his Balmain girls, Cara Delevingne being one of them. Serving as a muse for the designer over the years, the pair stripped down and got cosy together for the brand’s SS19 campaign. Cupping his hands over Delevigne’s boobs, Rousteing explained that the campaign was inspired by the album cover for Janet Jackson’s self-titled 1993 album.
Balmain’s triumphant return to couture
After being at the helm of the house for eight years, in 2019, Rousteing unleashed his debut couture collection. Although Balmain always produced bespoke pieces for its trusted clientele and the red carpet, the brand at that point hadn’t shown a couture collection in 14 years. “The inspiration is Paris. It’s about the beauty of France,” said post-show, working in bulbous shapes and regal silhouettes which came encrusted in pearls, feathers, beads and graffiti print. If Rousteing was going to do couture, he was going to do it his way.
Rousteing causes high-street pandemonium
Following on from the likes of Maison Margiela, Versace and Karl Lagerfeld, in 2015 Rousteing produced a 109-piece collection for H&M. Unveiled in a campaign film on a subway train (starring Kendall Jenner), all the Balmain signatures – big-shoulders, bold shapes, embellishments for the gods – were now available to the mass market. Understandably, the collection sold out within minutes, and girls across the globe finally had the dresses they had longed for from afar.
Another knock-out collection, this time AW19, saw Rousteing channel his inner biker chick. Models sauntered down the catwalk in bedazzled leather jackets with matching baker boy hats; jumpsuits with plunging necklines; and deconstructed outerwear in houndstooth. It was Tom of Finland, if he’d partied at Paradise Garage.
Who could forget this one? For Beyonée’s landmark 2018 headline slot at Coachella, the star entrusted Rousteing to create not only her outfits, but the stage attire for her entire band and crew of dancers, as well as Solange too. Sporting daisy dukes with a varsity-style hoodie, Beyonce’s performance – and her looks – will go down as the best the festival has ever seen.
Not forgetting Balmain’s menswear under Rousteing has also been a tremendous success, the designer’s AW20 collection for the house was particularly poignant. In the show notes, the designer spoke of the many questions he had growing up as an orphan in Bordeaux, one of France’s richest cities. Such questions revolved around race, heritage, belonging and the bourgeoisie – all themes Rousteing has continuously tackled throughout his tenure at Balmain. This collection united the designer’s childhood fascination, riffing off “classic bourgeois signatures” to focus on a world where borders don’t exist; a land of vast opinions and endless beauty.
Top image: Francois Guillot / AFP / Getty Images