Olivier Rousteing presents the Balmain fall winter 2023 collection in Paris. The show is titled Building Upon A Singular Legacy.
Olivier Rousteing Explains The Collection’s Focus On A Rich Heritage
When I interviewed at Balmain, my soon-to-be colleagues explained that this was a “sleeping giant” of a house resting upon a wealth of forgotten riches. But it wasn’t until I was first presented with our archive’s vast collection of sketches, press clippings, videos, and creations that I began to understand what they were talking about—and I was completely blown away.
This house has the incredible luck of never moving—so very little of an impressive 77+ years of design excellence has ever been misplaced or lost. Since our Fall 2023 collection pulls so much inspiration from that treasury, I wanted to give credit where credit is due. That’s why we’ve prepared this short booklet, hoping to show how this runway builds directly upon Pierre Balmain’s spirit, vision and genius.
The Balmain Silhouette
Balmain’s archives make it easy to see how our founder’s passion for architecture influenced his work. The signature elements of Pierre Balmain’s 1945 New French Style and his Jolie Madame silhouette—the strict tailoring, cinched waists, strong shoulders, perfect pleating, and elaborate volumes—can all be traced back to his early architectural training. Balmain often underlined the connection between his two obsessions, noting that “there is a close relationship between the work of an architect and that of the couturier.
The fact that one builds in stone and the other relies on muslin, that one aims to last for centuries and the other for only one season does not constitute essential differences.” These sketches of distinctly Balmain silhouettes, pulled from mid-century collections, helped inspire some of this runway’s strongest silhouettes.
Reintroducing An Eye-Catching House Pattern
Monsieur Balmain seems to have never stopped sketching new spins on house symbols. And although they may have been created several decades ago, all his graphic ideas remain fresh and compelling today. We recently reintroduced Pierre Balmain’s Labyrinth, a hypnotic motif from the ‘70s reflecting his lifelong fascination with the intricate mazes in France’s most beautiful Renaissance gardens.
In 1980, Balmain introduced the next generation of that repeating pattern, slightly shifting his focus to the neighboring palaces set alongside those labyrinths. Inspired by the endless repetition of contrasting marble squares laid out inside the passages of Versailles and the Loire Valley châteaux, he created a regal pattern, now used to cover several of next fall’s silhouettes.
Pois, Pearls et Nœuds: Perfect Finishing Touches From Our Archives
In addition to the mountains of archival evidence laying out forty years’ worth of incredible tailoring and bold silhouettes, the preserved documents and designs displaying Monsieur Balmain’s mastery of pattern and embellishment always inspire. For this collection, my team and I have riffed
on his love of one of France’s most classic motifs: petits pois (polka dots), which, season after season, Pierre Balmain cleverly and elegantly rendered in all possible sizes and configurations, relying on a wide array of fabrics, technics, and adornments. And, for Fall ’23, it’s clear that we’ve pushed the limits of one of his favorite luxury details—perfectly embroidered pearl ornaments.
Finally, Pierre Balmain’s bold inventiveness in playing with the size and the placement of elegant bows inspired some of the strongest offerings of today’s runway.
Topping Off Our Tribute To Monsieur Balmain
Whether it was with pillboxes, turbans, berets, cloches, boaters, or cartwheels—ever the architect, Monsieur Balmain loved to top off his perfect structural creations
with the most elegant of couture’s crowning touches.
For this runway, filled with fresh spins on our founder’s New French Style, Jolie Madame silhouette, masterful embroideries, signature patterns, and inventive adornments, my team and I knew we could not neglect that essential final ingredient. So, this season, we collaborated with Stephen Jones Millinery to develop this runway’s fresh and bold 21st-century riffs on some of our founder’s most impressive couture hat designs.