“The show must go on,”
sang Freddie Mercury bombastically on the Balmain sound system—and boy, did this show go on. It was huge, immense, epic. And that’s not a complaint: This felt Chanel-scale. Not only because it was full of Pre-Fall looks (how great it is to see women and men together on the runway), but because this menswear collection was the most baroquely bananas blitzkrieg of densely different designs Olivier Rousteing has thus far mustered. He said the show was
“a hymn to music meets fashion”;
that, of course, he’d been mourning the passing of so many musical legends in 2016; and that he’d been thinking a lot—but not exclusively—about heavy metal.
And then his mighty Slash solo of eye-bleed Balmainia began. The un-ironic overblown-ness of heavy metal iconography was re-created on jagged Balmain logo T-shirts worn under camo jackets and Rousteing-signature blazers heaped with couture-precise beadings of roaring big cats, ascending phoenixes, and curled serpents. There was a fabulously lavish set of gold knit pajamas worn over a beaded phoenix sweater. On several looks, including an extrovert aviator, Rousteing played with a multi-furled collar shape that had an orchid-like extravagance to it.
The T-shirt prints were translated via bead, stone, and pin into the most outrageously ornate oversize tees perhaps ever seen on this planet, whose sheer insanity of richness reminded me simultaneously of Kanye West and King Henry VIII.
There were many asides, including a beau geste of gold-studded woven houndstooth jackets in either monochrome or scarlet and white: Rousteing said they were a nod to the freedom in androgyny of Prince and George Michael—the sexiness of not caring. Then there were the almost Cardin-esque retro-futurist knits in cream or black, long and oversize, for rock star hermit moments kicking back on the jet. As looks kept coming, you could easily imagine the multimillionaire rock star ciphers who informed this collection wearing these clothes. They had a delirious grandeur that demanded to be in a Luc Besson movie.
In attendance were some people who think Rousteing’s brand of sincere abundance is too ornate and heartfelt to be compatible with their vision of fashion as something that needs to be obtuse, maybe even a little morose, to be good: Their eyes were almost visibly rolling. Whatever, guys. Rousteing rocks, just like Freddie.
PARIS, JANUARY 22, 2017
Article by Luke Leitch