Spring/Summer 2016 Balmain

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The #BALMAINARMY was out in force at Le Grand Hotel in Paris, where Olivier Rousteing’s all girl squad – Kendall, Gigi, Doutzen, Isabeli, Joan, Alessandra, Jourdan, Binx and both the Lilys – perfected their march for commander general Rousteing, who informed us in the show notes that this season would feature different elements from previous collections.

His upcoming collaboration with H&M made him comb his own Balmain archives, reminding him of the wealth of material that was “the result of four years of hard work,” he said. Four years is a long time in his industry and as a result he deemed it time to introduce new ideas for spring and to broaden the Balmain DNA.

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That most prominently manifested in tiered ruffles (flounce is shaping up to be a big story next season): they cascaded on trousers, along sleeves, and bib-fronts adding a romantic femininity to the fierce sex appeal of the whip-stitching, fishnets and strong shoulders also out in force. This new found softness also rippled through via a pretty pastel palette – the nude tones, like the new silhouettes, all served to temper Balmain’s customary opulence.

Rousteing credited the power of the house’s social media presence as a vital ingredient to its success in moving forward, confident that all the dresses we saw would be shared and shared again on various platforms very soon. Despite the slight irony that the brand once again chose a venue with dreadful reception making it virtually impossible to get a signal to share instantaneously, he’s right. Expect to see your style feeds flooded any day now.

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H&M X BALMAIN

With 17 international labels – including Versace, Marni and Karl Lagerfeld – already having come on board, H&M’s designer collaboration is one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the fashion calendar. Queues snake around the block on the morning a new collaboration drops into stores and the collection itself will sell out within hours – it was claimed that the Versace collaboration sold out in 30 minutes.

And now the 18th tie-up has been announced and it is perhaps the most intriguing so far. Balmain is most famous for its beautifully crafted (and eye-wateringly expensive) haute couture pieces and so is perhaps not the first label most people would imagine partnering with the mighty Swedes. But the result might surprise you.

We’ve already gotten quite a few sneak peeks at the hyped-up Balmain for H&M collaboration. Kendall Jenner and Jourdan Dunn wore pieces from collection to the Billboard Music Awards back in May, followed by the release of an ad campaign with Gigi Hadid in September. The lookbook was released officially last week — but not before someone leaked its contents on Instagram.

Well now, the mystery is over. We got our hands on images of every last piece that will be for sale when the collaboration hits stores on Nov. 5th. This is not H&M’s cheapest collaboration, with a few items surpassing the £300 mark.

I’m especially sorry to say it, but this ‘limited edition’ embellished dress worn by Gigi Hadid to a NYFW party. Price tag: £399.99.

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But there are still plenty of items under £100 for those with champagne taste on a beer budget, or, you know, Balmain taste on an H&M budget.

Prepare to fall in love with Olivier Rousteing

At just 29 years-old and already the creative director of an established fashion house, Olivier Rousteing is a trailblazer in the fashion industry – and he’s also extremely lovable. In the latest interview clip released by H&M in anticipation of the collaboration launch he speaks about what fashion means to him. “I was in an orphange, I didn’t know my parents,” he says.
“…so I always used clothes to actually identify myself. When you wear clothes, you create a world, you create your own world. I think Balmain today is a vision of the new world.”

“I think confidence is the most important thing. But also I think sexy and powerful,” he adds. “I think Balmain DNA is all about unique, and I can’t express how much I’m so excited and how much I enjoy it.”

What is most delightful about Rousteing, as comes across in this clip, is his love of fashion – he doesn’t take it too seriously, and that’s exactly what it should be about. (It also helps that he has cheekbones that could slice ice and a pout to make Rosie Huntington-Whiteley jealous, of course.) Anyway, prepare to see a lot more of this young man over the coming months and to love him a little bit more each time.

So here it is – Your Balmation Collaboration:

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Autumn/Winter 2015-16 Balmain

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Those transfixed by Kim Kardashian’s new platinum blonde hairdo, which she debuted on the front row at Balmain, were shocked from their trance when Alessandra Ambrosio opened the show in full, in-your-face, wham-bam, glamazon glory.

She entered in a cut-to-the navel, floor-length, mustard pleated gown, belted with glossy leather. Glamour is to be expected at Balmain, but the fab-factor was dialled way up.

Vintage undertones ran deep here – if it was J.W. Anderson‘s job in London to banish the Seventies revival in favour of the Eighties, then Olivier Rousteing has picked up the baton in Paris. Although Rousteing’s show notes claimed a Seventies reference, most of these proportions – and that fierce femme attitude – felt more at home in an Eighties context.

When the collection did riff on the Seventies, then that was visible in the billowing chiffon jumpsuits, printed with popping florals and finished with a ruffled décolletage.

A focus on proportion asserted itself in wide-leg ballooning flares in fine, high-shimmer fabric, pin-tucked to accentuate the pertest of derrières, which were divine; think Pleats Please meets Kim Kardashian and you’re part way there.

In fact, Rousteing may have a #BalmainArmy but Kim was clearly the muse inspiring this collection. The newly blonde bombshell looked particularly taken with a pair of sheer lace kick flares, worn with a sheer lace top tucked into a high waist, and cinched with a wide, pearl-embellished belt.

And below the waist? Perhaps the biggest surprise came in the cover up. These clothes were designed to be less fleshy than what we have come to expect from 28-year-old Rousteing. He chooses long-legged, glowing, robust-looking girls to walk in his show (the kind of gloriously sexy goddesses you’d find walking the Victoria’s Secret runway) and there’s always oodles of skin on display. Legs when visible were in tights – a low, possibly eight-denier by the looks of things.

This was of course an autumn/winter collection, so perhaps that explains the long-sleeves and the heavier handwriting, but it must have been about more than seasonality. Perhaps this woman wants to trade less on her sexuality and more on her talents; let’s face it…

The Balmain woman is so fierce she doesn’t feel the cold.

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HMBalmaination

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Arm in arm with his model buddies Kendall Jenner and Jourdan Dunn, the Balmain designer took to the red carpet in Las Vegas to announce his partnership with H&M, the fast-fashion retailer whose designer collaboration series is now in its 11th year. Rousteing follows in the footsteps of a long line of high-profile designer collaborators, from Karl Lagerfeld in 2004 to Wang in 2014. His collection for H&M will include women’s and men’s clothes, shoes, and accessories, and is scheduled to hit the company’s e-commerce site and stores worldwide on November 5.

Congratulations, Olivier! We were taking guesses about who the designer would be at the office last week, and then I got the number for this interview and it was a Paris number and I knew instantly it had to be you. 

OLIVIER ROUSTEING: It’s logical, right? It’s a bit what I always defend in fashion, me and my army. I’m happy to be part of it. I used to work 10 years ago for Cavalli; I was obviously an assistant, but I remember [his collaboration]. I’m the only one who’s seen this two times happening.

How did it all come about?

OR: H&M approached the house. But it’s always been a dream to do it. When you do a collaboration with H&M, it’s a big step in the fashion industry. It’s a big achievement, professionally and also personally. Professionally, you build a world and they want to be part of it. They want to be part of the Balmain army, which is amazing. Personally, it’s an amazing challenge as a designer to make a collection for the street market and for the entire world. When you work for a superluxury brand, you don’t have so many stores, your vision isn’t the entire world. With H&M, you know you’re part of the world, you touch all the continents. I’ve always been loud about being about diversity and the world. So it’s perfect.

And they have an amazing team. It was really fluid. We had really quick communication. I think I am the first of the new decade. I’m really proud to be part of a new story.

Yes! I think you’re number 11 after Alexander Wang. Balmain is so elevated with the couture details—the beading, the embroideries. How did you deal with the challenge of translating Balmain’s very high-end look to H&M?

OR: It was a big challenge and a good challenge. I don’t want to lose the craftsmanship, and I don’t want to lose the richness and the glamour of the house. But I also want to talk to the people in the street, to different ages. I kept the glamour and richness, but we twisted it. You can find in the collection so many different garments. And I think that’s going to be the beauty of the collection. My collaboration is different from the others. H&M really challenged themselves with craftsmanship, with the high couture level of France, and the results are great.

Olivier, why is it a good thing for the Balmain brand to collaborate with H&M? Is it purely for visibility?

OR: Sometimes we feel like Balmain is not real, it’s kind of unreal. I feel with H&M, I’m going to have the chance to actually see more people wearing my clothes, and my vision more in the street. Because Balmain does not have the ability to have so many stores, with H&M I get the chance to express the diversity I’m always expressing, about ages, about races, continents.

For a luxury brand like Balmain and others, it’s an amazing gesture, giving access to people who dream about the brand. How can I say? It’s close to my vision of social media, sharing my brand with people, showing what I’m doing, giving a piece of the dream.

The timing of this is good for Balmain, right, with a new store in London and a New York flagship on the way?

OR: New York is opening in November/December, so it’s perfect timing. And it’s perfect personal timing, as well. During the last couple of seasons, Balmain has become known not just for the clothes, but for a vision. I wouldn’t have been ready four years ago.

Your coming-out moment will happen at the Billboard Music Awards, I hear.

OR: I’m going to the Billboards in Vegas with Kendall [Jenner] and Jourdan [Dunn]. I think it’s the perfect place. The Billboards is a celebration of music. What is amazing with H&M is that they really want to stay close to my world, to my pop culture, to the young culture, to music culture. H&M really wants to keep it real. Jourdan and Kendall are going to represent with me. You know, it’s a big announcement, so I need to be with girls I feel good with and who are close to me.

I’m really honored, because I’m really young to have this collaboration. Ten years ago, I was the one waiting in front of the window to get the pieces. So I feel like this time I have a double personality: One is the designer who created the collection, and the second is the one who remembers how it felt to wait for the pieces and fight to get them. That’s what’s going to make this collaboration really real, because I know the feeling of wanting the pieces and worrying you won’t get the pieces because it’s going to sell out in two hours.

Do you have your outfit planned for Sunday?

OR: Of course. I’m going to wear my H&M pieces. So many guys are like, “I would like to dress like you.” When they see my outfit, I’m going to be proud to say, “Go and get it.” We have a new hashtag for this collaboration, it’s #HMBalmaination. The idea is: “Join the nation.”

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