Olivier Rousteing presents the Balmain men’s fall winter 2023 collection.
01: Balmain’s “sleeping giant” days are officially over
I remember the moment as though it were yesterday: it’s fourteen years ago, and I am completely blown away as I’m introduced to our archive’s vast collection of sketches, press clippings, videos and creations for the first time. I finally understand what I had been repeatedly told while interviewing for my first position at Balmain: that this house was a “sleeping giant,” resting upon a treasure trove of long-forgotten riches.
Balmain has the incredible luck of never having moved—which means that very little of an impressive 77+ years of design excellence has ever been misplaced or lost. Two days ago, at Le Carreau du Temple, our women’s runway was built upon the legacy of this house’s earliest years, with my team and I riffing on the precise cuts and remarkable construction of M. Balmain’s legendary New French Style. Today’s presentation looks to Balmain’s first men’s collections, from the mid-1960s.
Those early offerings were marked by a sleek and sophisticated style that relied on the atelier’s exceptional tailoring skills for slim-fit, sharply cut suits that reflected the cool sophistication of Saint Germain jazz artists. Those were, of course, a massive departure from the conventional suiting ideas of the time.
Additionally, Monsieur Balmain seems to have had absolutely no fear in deftly incorporating some of best ideas seen in his women’s designs. Building upon that bold example, we’ve made the relationship very clear between the silhouettes, colors, patterns and spirit of Wednesday’s women’s runway and this men’s presentation. And those two collections, so imbued with Balmain’s singular heritage, underline the fact that this house is definitely no longer sleeping on its rich past.
02: “Le style que l’on ressuscite doit être adapté au présent” (Pierre Balmain)
Saint Germain’s exhilarating mid-century jazz scene is, unfortunately, long gone—but we design for today, not some golden past. One of Pierre Balmain’s guiding principles, set above, translates to “a resurrected style must be adapted to the present.”
That often-repeated dictum reflected his strong conviction that fashion needed to continually evolve—for, as he noted in his autobiography, unless a designer aims to create period costumes for the theatre, collections must always reflect the modern needs and the distinctive tastes of each new generation. So, while our runways may reference an extraordinary inheritance, we are equally inspired by the uniquely audacious, forward-looking and optimistic values that have always set apart this house.
04: Highlighting Pierre Balmain’s Graphic Talents
Monsieur Balmain never stopped sketching new spins on house symbols. And, although they may have been created several decades ago, his graphic ideas remain fresh and compelling today.
A few seasons ago, we reintroduced Pierre Balmain’s Labyrinth, a hypnotic motif from the ‘70s that reflects his lifelong fascination with the intricate mazes found inside France’s most beautiful Renaissance gardens. In 1980, Balmain introduced the next generation of that repeating PB pattern, slightly shifting his focus to the 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 truly regal pattern, which is now used to cover several of this collection’s silhouettes.
04: “If a seam is not quite right, that is a matter of life and death.” (Ginette Spanier)
It’s clear that Spanier, Balmain’s Directrice from 1947 to 1976, agreed with her boss when Monsieur Balmain stated that “only in Paris do all the couture workers, from seamstresses to mannequins, worship and treat a dress like a baby…. in Paris, when the day is over, it’s the artisans who are willing to stay and sacrifice their comfort, in order to produce something of great beauty.”
This city’s couture tradition of unmatched dedication to artisanal savoir-faire is what made Pierre Balmain’s pivotal post- war collections possible—and, today, it’s what allows me to explore and expand upon the obsession that I share with our founder for the precise, impeccable Parisian tailoring and construction that have helped to set apart this week’s two Balmain collections.
That’s why my team and I are so happy to be able to present this small men’s collection in a more intimate space, allowing all of our guests the opportunity to closely inspect and admire the details of that skilled work.