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I love Olivier Rousteing. With his mastery of tailoring, aggressive ornamentation and use of innovative fabrics, it is easy to understand how the storied Parisian house founded by Pierre Balmain (a contemporary of Christian Dior and Hubert de Givenchy) would take a chance on a relatively unknown wunderkind when he was named creative director in 2011 at age 24. His willingness to take risks, his understanding of social media (he the fave designer of the Kardashian clan), and his faculty for designing party dresses that are both sexy and classy have made him a megastar on fashion's global stage.
Rousteing has increased sales and exposure for the Balmain house considerably. But the biggest surprise of his tenure is the expansion of Balmain menswear which now generates about 40 percent of the company's revenue. While Pierre Balmain used to say that his main objective was to "always dress women in the right look for the right moment," (and his gorgeous gowns for goddesses like Josephine Baker and Sophia Lauren always did just that), Balmain Menswear under Rousteing is more about dressing gents in clothes that say "I'm rich and powerful enough to wear whatever the fuck I want." What else could a guy in a silver knit sweater suit with a matching trouser and skirt be thinking? Or a dude in a heavily embroidered evening jacket with midnight blue accents? Or a fellow in a bright orange trench coat over an olive parachute jacket and blue tapered harem pants? Or how about the guy in the spectacular suede poncho with elaborate lacing? And certainly the gentleman in the orange silk belted jacket over tangerine crepe palazzo pants.
Like several other designers showcasing Spring 2017 menswear collections in Paris, Rousteing mixed womenswear in with the menswear. And while the bold colors and rich ornamentation were right in line with Monsieur Balmain's main objective for women (yup, the "right look for the right moment"), the menswear is far more exclusive. Of the small percentage of men with the means to buy Balmain in the first place, there is an exponentially smaller coterie of men who are comfortable with the bold choices Rousteing offers. The Balmain woman and the Balmain man have nothing in common. She is all about beauty and he is all about bombast. In fact, they would probably not even end up at the same event. (Unless we're talking KimYe here, but they're an anomaly, so forget it!) He wears his clothes not for utilitarian means but as an affirmation of an outré aesthetic. So what type of event could a man wear a silver knit sweater suit to without having to confront the bemusement or even ridicule of the other guests? If you're even asking that question, you are not a Balmain man. Remember, the Balmain man doesn't care what you think about his attire. He is rich and powerful enough to wear whatever the fuck he wants.
WRITTEN BY KAREN FRAGALA SMITH
PHOTO CREDIT: BALMAIN