Balmain: Be Buoyant

Olivier Rousteing takes a short cruise down the Seine


Balmain haute couture Jul 2020 P1

Typical of Olivier Rousteing, Balmain’s haute couture presentation was a rousing affair. His love of models is well known, so no sketches or tailor dummies for him. Rather, real, in-the-flesh boys and girls, and good-looking dancers, prancing on a barge that cruises down the Seine, passing some of the 4th arrondissement’s famous landmarks. The models walk the length of the barge, with Mr Rousteing among them, adjusting the gowns to flow nicely, all the better for the photographers to capture the couture above the currents. French high fashion has probably never seen such lively riparian entertainment.

While many designers, this season, have resigned to the fact that a fashion show as we know it is not, for now, possible (Alexis Mabille created a boxed-up runway, as if hoarding off potential spectators), Mr Rousteing took to the heart of Paris and set up, in the open, an eye-catching floating runway (the action spilled onto the riverbank too, with dancers stirring up a carnival mood). Relevance in check, he had the whole presentation streamed on TikTok, which unfortunately did not fare too well, as the broadcast was choppy and stopped abruptly. It isn’t clear why a Balmain fashion show should sit alongside the typical content of the video equivalent of Instagram—jokey, unscripted, and rather mindless.

Balmain haute couture Jul 2020 P2

Dancers, dressed like the designer, first appear on the barge, doing some vigorous moves. There is also the French pop singer Yseult imperturbably augmenting the soundtrack that suffers from poor acoustics. The models emerge onto a mirrored runway that reflects the blue, blue sky, and stand on their respective platforms. Then, they are immobile. Although, as a tableau, this would be the closest to a traditional catwalk, there is a sense that it is unnatural for the models. They seem bothered by the wind in their hair. Are they afraid, too, that they might fall into the Seine, even if this isn’t an America’s Next Top Model ‘challenge’? They look like fish out of the river.

As for the clothes, it is the Balmain that Mr Rousteing has created for the house since 2011. Some of the more colourful gowns hint at the good years he spent at Roberto Cavalli. There is one ruffled number that would be perfect for singing alone at the Grand Palais, sans audience! Others, such as those familiar, overwrought, body-con mini-dresses, reflect the vision of a club kid bringing his sense of glamour to couture, now embraced by reality TV stars and wealthy socialites alike. Mr Rousteing has found a formula, and, given the restrictive situation before the show, it is probably best to stick to what he knows best. And have fun at the same time—he certainly looks like he has.

Screen grabs: (top) Balmain/TikTok, (bottom) Paris Videostars/Youtube

One thought on “Balmain: Be Buoyant

  1. Pingback: Fashion Week Or Commercial Break? | Style On The Dot

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