A lot was packed into Balmain’s Fall 2019 menswear collection – evening inspired day looks and futuristic accessories catered to performers and the socially elite. Designed for the youthful jet set glitterati living in a digital age, the collection introduced a new way of glamorous dressing suited for transitioning from day into night while also touching on the theme of freedom of self expression. Every fall collection involves layers by default, but Olivier Rousteing built illusions of impossible grandeur with multiple shirt tails under stacked jackets and pants that simultaneously draw attention while shielding the wearer from an outsiders gaze. That’s pretty on-the-nose for a culture submerged in social media – where everyone is the star of their own platform at the cost of their privacy. The looks were dazzling, and at times a little claustrophobic.
The accessories in this collection were as you might imagine completely over the top. Heavily padded harnesses held iPhones to models chests with screens and cameras facing outwards – a metaphor for the weight of living in the eye of a camera. Almost all of the models wore sunglasses – another shield – some of which were styled after opera glasses and further emphasized the theme of scrutiny. (Rousteing’s mother is an optometrist – perhaps there is an homage hidden in there.) The collection is for people who know they are being looked at, but also makes sure no one gets too close.
Social media can create a lot of pressure that is often hard to live up to, though it has also helped to create more exposure than ever for historically marginalized groups. This is something personally important to Rousteing, who has dealt with a fair amount of skepticism and prejudice through his life. With so much success behind him it’s easy to imagine Rousteing living a charmed life, though it has not been without its challenges. Rousteing was adopted at the age of one, battled insecurity and prejudice as a child, and faced an initially uphill battle when he took the reigns of a french luxury house as an unknown, mixed race designer at the age of 26. However, the loving and supportive family that Rousteing grew up in seems to have influenced his ability to build a culture of inclusivity rarely found in modern society. We see proof of his commitment to diversity in his campaigns, supporters, and social media. In his latest collection, Rousteing makes it clear that his brand welcomes all races and sexual orientations, and his runway backs that up. The success he’s earned at Balmain proves that the world is ready to stand behind him as well.