When Olivier Rousteing, then 25, was selected to head Balmain’s design team in 2011, he became one of the youngest talents ever named to lead an historic Parisian fashion house. Rousteing is very conscious of his unique background and position. “I'm not the typical Creative Director of a major house. I see first-hand how my generation lives and I understand how they want to dress,” he explains. “But most of all, I’m a privileged witness to the openness, optimism, universality and honesty of this dynamic moment, with so many rapid evolutions in art, communication, popular culture and music. Those changes constantly inspire me and are reflected in my collections—they allow me not only to design clothes, but perhaps also to shake things up a little and offer a new vision to fashion.”
Rousteing was raised in Bordeaux and studied fashion at Paris’ Ecole Supérieure des Arts et Techniques de la Mode (ESMOD). At 18, he moved to Italy, where he worked at Roberto Cavalli for five years, beginning as an intern and rising steadily through the ranks to be named Designer for the men’s and women’s ready-to-wear collections. When the opportunity arose for him to return to Paris to work at Balmain, Rousteing seized it, forming a part of the house’s design team for two years before being named Head of Design in 2011. He is now Balmain’s Creative Director.
The founder of Balmain, Pierre Balmain, was known for dressing the most discerning women of the post-war era with his then-radical “Jolie Madame” style. Those who followed in his path, including Oscar de la Renta and Christophe Decarnin, were also dedicated to offering their own era’s tastemakers the luxury designs that reflected the culture of the day while at the same time highlighting Balmain’s signature mastery of the heritage and techniques of couture, including the type of embroidery and tailoring that only a true Parisian atelier is capable of. Olivier Rousteing is proud to continue in the house’s long tradition of pushing beyond what one usually expects from luxury fashion, by adding his own generation’s unique outlook to Balmain's singularly surprising and rich history.
Balmain has always proudly remained true to the vision and trailblazing spirit of its founder. Since Pierre Balmain’s death in 1982, the house has been guided by a series of strong designers, each balancing modern offerings with the need to respect the foundations and traditions of the house. These designers—Erik Mortensen, Herve-Pierre, Oscar de la Renta, Laurent Mercier and Christophe Decarnin—were all inspired by the colors, fluidity and elegance of Balmain’s signature “Jolie Madame” aesthetic.
Olivier Rousteing was named as the label’s designer in 2011 and his critically and commercially acclaimed collections have helped to push the label forward on its pathway of rapid growth. Rousteing is influenced by the unique confident style of today’s modern women as well as the work of the masters who have guided Balmain before him. He incorporates the house’s well-known mastery of tailoring, embroidery and traditional techniques of classic couture into his collections.
Just as Pierre Balmain stressed that his first objective was “to always dress women in the right look for the right moment,” Rousteing aims to create designs that chime with the way women of his generation are dressing now. The young designer’s couture spirit—seen in his careful attention to unique and handwrought details—is balanced by his collections’ very modern silhouette.
Pierre Balmain’s beautiful atelier and showroom at 44 Rue Francois 1er, in the heart of Paris’ exclusive “triangle d'or” neighborhood, has remained the house’s iconic flagship address throughout its history. In 2009, the historic boutique was restored to its original 18th-century grandeur by Parisian architect Joseph Dirand. The elegant space—with its gold-leaf trimmed doors, 1940’s classic furniture, Versailles parquet floors and elaborate ceiling moldings—recalls the address’ original function as an aristocratic residence and serves as a template for many of the brand’s boutiques and shop-in-shops around the world.