One has to give Olivier Rousteing credit: this Balmain collection is unlike anything we’ve seen anywhere else this season. Whether or not it was any good, of course, is always a matter of opinion. Rousteing designs to the needs and desires of his most visible reality show pseudo-stars which means there is not all that much consideration for what the average woman might want to wear. The collection is flamboyant, shiny, and certain to look good in front of paparazzi cameras. If that’s your lifestyle, you’re set. For everyone else, though, it may be a bit too much.
The set for this afternoon’s show was exotic with green plants, trees, and fern, invoking a sense of being in the jungle. The orchestra at the end of the runway kept the tempo fast and the tone urgent. There is an implied fierceness to these clothes and perhaps with that an inferred warning that one might not want to mess with the women wearing them. The looks photographed very well in this setting and the atmosphere did a good job of making the collection desirable.
Among the things that stand out, one of the first things one notices is that silhouettes are almost exclusively long. There are a couple of mid-thigh skirts in the mix, but other than that everything flirts with the floor. Even skirts whose hems hit mid-calf are layered with leggings underneath keeping everything covered down to the ankle. Frequently, the looks are accompanied by a long jacket or cape or shawl so that there is plenty of fabric to swirl around and catch the wind. The look is nice, but the weight could be a bit much if you’re someplace where the humidity runs high.
Where there is a long skirt, there is a slit to show off the legs beneath it. This isn’t an unusual feature, but not all the slits work. As we’ve seen in other collections this season, the decision to put two slits in front, positioned directly over the legs, is not particularly conducive to walking. Rousteing’s models had obviously practiced some because they managed to not fall as we’ve seen at other shows. Still, they force one to take smaller, more careful steps which I’m sure can be frustrating.
While everything below the waist is well covered, the same cannot be said for the tops. Rousteing employs a number of different cuts with creative shapes and slices. He has always liked a deep plunge and in some of his tops this season he’s found a way to produce not just one but two plunges which no doubt requires the use of double-sided tape to keep the garment in place. Where he’s not slicing and dicing across the bodice, Rousteing frequently goes sheer, which his primary clients seem to prefer. These are the looks that generate a lot of noise when worn by people whose last name begins with a K. Almost anyone else would be risking arrest.
The collection is at its best when its at its most colorful. I groaned a little when the first two pieces down the runway were both tan. The last thing anyone wanted to see was a repeat of Roosevelt Park. Fortunately, he moved quickly to dark greens and grew his palette from there. Where he employs multiple bright colors, the looks are astonishing and attractive. He also does a surprisingly good job of making snake print look good. Although, again, the heavy use of leather is going to cause some serious perspiration issues if worn anytime after April.
Balmain isn’t a collection for everyone; it doesn’t even try. The looks are showy and expensive, designed for a luxury lifestyle spent in front of cameras. If that’s you, congratulations. The rest of us will just have to sit back and watch.