Monday, 30 September 2013


The 'Balmain' brand conjured up a distinct aesthetic - heavy embellishment and micro hemlines. With his last collection, creative director Olivier Rousteing turned up the aesthetic, delivering a series of ultra-short skirts teamed with jewelled jumpers with squared shoulders and waist-cinching belts, a look which left many on the fence due to the clothing's overall lack of wearability. So, this season, Rousteing has done a U-turn of sorts, choosing to relax his sharp silhouettes and introduce a touch of femininity, and has actually succeeded in producing one of the most interesting collections of Paris Fashion Week so far. 

Maybe one of the reasons that this collection interests me so much is that it is so unexpected. Only recently I was reading an interview with Rousteing, and when asked about the accusaions that his clothing was too uncomfortable to wear, he replied 'When a woman spends $20,000 on a dress, she does not care if she can sit down. She wants to look incredible." It is true that Balmain is towards the higher end of designer in terms of the amount of work that goes into the clothing (a lot of which has to be shipped abroad to be embellished by hand), but in essence the aim is for fashion to be functional. Rousteing never strays into the realms of the avant-garde like designers such as Kawakubo or Chalayan, so the critique that his clothing was too restrictive is obviously one that is relevant, and it appears to be one that he has taken on board, resulting in what may be his best collection yet for the brand.
The real surprise was the glamourisation of everyday classics such as cardigans and overalls, both symbols of warmth, comfort and utility. Rousteing's overalls came in head-to-toe leather, whereas his cardigans came in graphic houndstooth and were tightly-belted - a glamorous spin on comfort. His jumpers were loose but they were quilted, embellished, sequinned and trimmed with gold chain. His denim shirts were semi-sheer and spiked with silver studs. His perception of comfort was refreshing, and his clothing was impressive whilst still being functional - it was essentially the perfect balance of utility and comfort.
There was an element of streetwear in the collection too, and before the show Rousteing had said that he had wanted the looks to be sporty and cool, an aim which he realised through a series of quilted leather jackets and checked bombers. Despite the heavy presence of black, white and gold, there was also a return to the ultra-cute pastels of last season such as powder blues and girly pinks, usually shown in kitsch gingham prints which avoided looking twee by being offset with heavy chain necklaces and black ankle boots.
Overall, the collection was a show of versatility by the French designer, and also a reaction to criticism that he was coming dangerously close to being written off as a one-trick pony. His interpretation of denim is chicer than Versace, his pastels are more edgy than prissy and his overalls are both wearable and unbearably chic. Balmain is back.

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