When Balmain, the decadent ultra sexy French maison bid adieu to Christophe Decarnin it was quite surprising to see a 25 year old from Las Vegas take the helms. But the decision has proven to be a brilliant transition. Olivier Rousteing started working at Roberto Cavalli just five years ago and joined Balmain in 2009. Cavalli was a great place to start and graduate from and eventually take the Paris based brand seamlessly from one hand to another.
Replacing Decarnin was no easy task, many labels have suffered futile stumbles when reaching for a new designer. Rousteing presented a Pre-Fall collection that echoes the signature heavy armor-like beading and tough sexy pieces the Balmain customer shops for season after season.
Marcelo Maquieira, the buyer for Ennu in Amsterdam explained the elusive draw of Balmain, “They have so many handicaps; there’s very little advertising, no look books or DVDs of the show, but we have consistently had 90 percent sell through. A track record like that makes us happy to take risks and ignore the small stuff.” [NYT]
As is typical in most collections there was indeed an inspiration behind the clothes for Pre-Fall 2012, czarist Russia. Fabergé eggs manifested themselves in a delicate watercolor print seen on silk pants and shirts as well as dresses. Careful not to veer too much off course –rightly so- Rousteing presented a strong silhouette with structured velvet and leather jackets, double breasted coats and even the dresses. Skin tight body-con dresses were presented floor length and ultra short paired with opaque tights. Some of the wide-leg pants were so long the entire shoe was covered. Others were ultra skinny and has interesting prints echoing their Russian inspiration. A deep emerald green leather was made into several pieces including a long skirt.
There was arguably less heavy bead work, a sure hit and main draw of the Decarnin era collections that would not only sell out but be featured on the cover and inside of many a magazine. It is clear that there was a conscious effort to keep in line with the Balmain “look” and that is precisely why the collection as a whole does not seem cohesive. Designing for a fashion house with a strong “look” that has such a staunch following is after all a delicate line to walk and carries much pressure and expectations. It remains to be seen whether editors and clients will embrace the efforts of the newly minted designer but to the naked eye the collection is a fantastic effort and certainly worthy of a warm reception.
Images via Vogue Paris