HAIR PRODUCTS: KIEHL’S, INCLUDING SILK GROOM SERUM. HAIR: TYLER JOHNSTON FOR KIEHL’S/ONE REPRESENTS. GROOMER: ANDREW GALLIMORE FOR NARS/CLM. MAKEUP: ZOE TAYLOR FOR DARPHIN/JED ROOT. STUDIO MANAGER: MARK PATTENDEN. PHOTO ASSISTANTS: FENTON BAILEY, MALAK KABBANI. MAKEUP ASSISTANT: LILY GREGORY.
Creative director of Balmain, Paris.
COLLEEN KELSEY: How do you stay above the pace of the industry?
OLIVIER ROUSTEING: I’m born in a generation where everything has to go fast. I don’t know what it is to just do two collections a year. I do believe that I would be bored. I feel really excited about challenging myself and waking up every morning and thinking, “Okay, I have a fashion show.” Now I have Balmain Kids, so I have eight collections a year: two kids, two men’s, two pre-, and two womenswear shows. But after that, what’s going to happen? Yes, I’m going to work on an entire collection like a crazy person, but I love to have other projects. Like when we did H&M, I was really pleased. That was something that touched a different kind of crowd, with different price ranges, and the marketing was different. After that I had my own collaboration with Nike. When you work for the Met Gala with, like, 12 people making couture dresses, it’s good because fashion is such a big world where you need to always challenge yourself. That’s what I’m excited about.
KELSEY: How has social media affected your approach to Balmain?
ROUSTEING: Instagram is a really new way to understand what people want. Sometimes I feel like the fashion critics are really tough and not objective. With Instagram, there’s an honest way to like or dislike, follow or unfollow a brand name or a picture. People and clients who want to talk about my collection tell me their comments on Instagram. I’m staying connected to the business. At the same time, I’m staying connected to people that dream about fashion. Sometimes we forget that a fashion front row can be really exclusive, and I love being inclusive. It matters for me to know teenagers’ advice, and at the same time, to know fashion opinions. I love Snapchat and Instagram because I stay connected to my friends as well, sometimes celebrities. A lot of people that are around me are very iconic. I definitely get inspiration from them—women or men, singers or models. Instagram shows the daily life of people, their street style, their glam, eveningwear style. You can look at pictures and get inspired. It’s like going to a library in a way. But I’m not going to a library, obviously, because I have no time.
KELSEY: Is it more gratifying to get approval from a celebrity than from a critic?
ROUSTEING: It’s really more interesting for me to have my friends’ advice. They can tell me, “Oh my God, this show was not the best,” or “I love this outfit, but I would rather have that.” I obviously respect a lot of fashion critics. Sometimes I feel fashion reviewers are really far away from who is buying it, don’t understand the Balmain taste or the Balmain world. I don’t think the fashion reviews help the business today. You can get the best fashion critiques and not have a big business, and you can have the worst fashion critiques and your collection is the most sold-out. You have to be really strong and protect yourself because you can’t have both.
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