Balmain Fall/Winter 2019

by Long Nguyen

Several major events happened at the Balmain show on a cloudy, Friday afternoon. First, the show locale had been moved to the outskirts of Paris, past Porte de Champaret, in a vast industrial event space with grey cement floor. Secondly, the collection that Olivier Rousteing showed was one of his most mature collection to date, because not only did he leave behind his past fond attachments to anything sparkling with massive shoulders, and as short as possible to maximize the leg’s exposure. Now, in lieu of all that fun, which seemed like a distant past, Rousteing instead offered a sober collection, where the range of clothing choices were vastly more comprehensive than in past seasons.  Possibly because of his debut haute couture in January, where he could be much more experimental and where he could now take much more risks and perhaps taken off some of the more embellished clothes he felt were necessary in the past for ready-to-wear.

In the spirit of providing a new template for the Balmain women, and the Balmain Army of fans, Rousteing softened his signature silhouettes yet still retained some of his trademarks – pronounced broad shoulders and subtle embroideries – and, on the whole, made the clothes friendlier, for the most part, saved perhaps for the leather short dress with metal spikes everywhere, fashioned for the most rebellious girl in the army. Oh, and on the subject of metal spikes, they appeared on boots, biker jackets, bags, hats, on transparent trenches, and even appeared on jackets.  

The opening look-an oversized blazer, with metal studs falling off the shoulders paired with a metal mesh tank and a matching skirt with feather trims-led the way for a less in-your-face sex appeal than recent seasons, with a softer silhouette which permeated throughout the show-especially with the washed denims paired with double-breasted jacket, with green crushed velvet blouson, or with an embroidered string skirt. There were plenty of great clothes-sweaters, bikers, cargo pants, coats, vests, corsets, capes, or suits-that were more approachable and feel a bit less precious than they were in the past.  

Perhaps his foray into couture has taught him about the value of craftsmanship, and how that diligent and artisanal work has permeated throughout the collection shown. This telegraphed a different set of values than the quick Instagram moment which the designer had a hand in creating for Balmain. Now his audience would have to look closer at the value of the clothes they are purchasing and understand that luxury clothes mean a time-consuming process of manufacturing by using the best available material.  

Yet even with this excursion to amplify the collection of clothes for his customers, Rousteing restrained any temptations to merge some portion of streetwear which has shown up in bits and pieces over the past few seasons but wasn’t anywhere present on this season’s runway. The collection contained the strong signatures but was devoid of some of the logo garments. Even the washed denim looked very polished and not something seen in streetwear. It was wise to move on from street influences when that wind is winding down.  

Photos courtesy of Balmain