Balmain woos Paris fashion week with internet-savvy stance on censorship – The Guardian
Fully-made-up models and bemused fashion editors were pulled into a frenzied scrum outside the Balmain show in Paris on Thursday – a sure sign that Kanye West and Kim Kardashian were in town.
Olivier Rousteing, Balmain’s 28-year-old creative director, is friends with Kardashian (19.1 million Instagram followers) and Rihanna (37.3 million Twitter followers) and understands perfectly the art of winning attention in the internet age. Fittingly, his spring/summer collection was inspired by an image shared on social media.
“One of the most popular photos from Balmain’s last collection didn’t focus on any of my designs,” notes distributed at the show read. “It was a shot of Rihanna, seated next to me at the after party, and she looked amazing in her transparent top.”
This starting point led him to thoughts of women in popular culture who are “proud of their bodies and unafraid to explore sensuality and transparency. You have to admire the way so many of these stars turn the tables on censorship.”
He was referring, no doubt, to Instagram’s blocking of Rihanna’s sometimes risque pictures when he spoke of supporting celebrities’ right to post uncensored images and music online as if it were a crusade: “We search for unbleeped videos, hashtags to free closed Instagram accounts and Google photos unmarred by thick black bands.”
This anti-censorship stance was evident on the catwalk in clothes that showed off the female form in unusual ways. Dresses were transparent but for crisscrosses of black crystal, bra tops had square cutouts across the ribs, and feathered backless halterneck tops were paired with glitzy semi-transparent pencil skirts.
Rousteing’s models – whom he often refers to as the Balmain Army – were the epitome of social media savvy casting, and included Karlie Kloss, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Jourdan Dunn and Kardashian’s sister, Kendall Jenner, who alone has 13.8 million Instagram followers.
Given that a Balmain shirt could cost £68,000, very few of these followers would buy the clothes, but as a springboard for a glitzy, sexy, of-the-moment brand also seeking to sell leather goods and perfume, the show was perfectly pitched.
A very different vision of femininity was presented by Roland Mouret on Thursday.
Usually, when a designer is asked about their inspirations for a collection, their references will be erudite and esoteric. Theo van Doesburg, perhaps, or Battleship Potemkin. The one person never mentioned is the customer – and that is where Mouret, who cites “real women” as his perennial muse, is different.
Mouret explained that his starting point was a flower motif, “like a bouquet to the customer”. He was also inspired by New York, where he will open a store in November, and there was plenty to set tills ringing. Dresses and tops in lilac, white and Granny Smith green featured sympathetic folds of fabric at hips and shoulders. Zips were exposed and curved over bottoms, and cutouts and panels of lilac mesh added sex appeal.
Fashion’s favoured A-line midi-length hemline was there, but the silhouette was flatteringly tight around the waist and buttocks. He is clearly an unashamedly commercial designer, and there are plenty of women who will pay for the Mouret wiggle.