Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing Talks "Strong Woman" Kylie Jenner, "Joy" of Spring Show

Darian DiCianno/BFA.com
Singer Justine Skye and Balmain designer Olivier Rousteing

"That last show was a celebration of beauty and joy at a moment of fashion which is a bit boring. I feel like we need to step it up," said the brand's creative director.

"For me, New York is just [about] walking around the streets, because they have such a great energy," says Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing, just in from Paris to christen the opening of a dedicated Balmain shop and the launch of the BBuzz Bag at Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship store in midtown Manhattan. "And I love spending time with my friends in the house and watching movies all night. I’m not really a party boy."

How it is that a designer — who creates some of the most luxurious going-out clothes, with imposing shoulders, lashings of sparkle, impossibly short minis and the skinniest of jeans for the "Balmain Army" of leggy girls and boys — can claim to be a homebody? As Rousteing rhapsodizes about early morning runs on the High Line and how inspiring the light in New York is, it is hard not to be charmed.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Yet when he turns up later at the celebratory party at Saks’ posh Le Chalet bar underneath L’Avenue restaurant (an offshoot of the chic Paris eatery that opened this spring), it is clear Rousteing gives as good as he gets from the Balmain-clad throng, wearing a plunging tank top under his own big-shouldered blazer and cozying up to his assorted guests, including Stranger Things’ star Noah Schnapp, singer Justine Skye, Princess Olympia of Greece, Oscar de la Renta designer Fernando Garcia and Conor Kennedy.

Rousteing sighs that his visits to New York are "not often enough, and then only for a day or two," although that may change next year with the opening of his first stand-alone Manhattan boutique on Madison Avenue. In fact, travels to the U.S. most often find him on the West Coast. "I am always in L.A. Again, I don’t stay long, but I have a lot of friends there," he says. Rousteing was in Los Angeles a week before his recent spring 2020 show to shoot his ad campaign with Kylie Jenner and, in 2018, to work with Beyonce prior to her Coachella performance. (He earned a shared Emmy nomination for the costuming, as seen in the 2018 Netflix documentary Homecoming).

Rousteing’s label recently collaborated with the youngest member of the Kardashian-Jenner clan on a Kylie x Balmain makeup capsule collection, as well as naming her the artistic director of makeup for the spring 2020 Balmain show, but illness kept Jenner home instead of in Paris at showtime. "She’s such a strong woman and I love the way that she's so confident and always making sure that her friends are feeling good. And she's so generous," he says of his friend of "four or five years," adding, "When you do have problems, she will always be there for you. It’s a beautiful relationship."

Rousteing professes to not care so much about whether his clothes are worn on the red carpet ("If it happens, it happens"), yet his spring 2020 collection would seem to be a prime candidate with its bold color, a somewhat new turn for the creative director more often known for inky navy and black palette. Styles in the spring line were inspired by some of his pop culture heroes in the late 1990s: Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Destiny's Child. "That last show was a celebration of beauty and joy at a moment of fashion which is a bit boring. I feel like we need to step it up," he says.

While Rousteing is involved in some serious efforts, including recently attending the Global Replenishment Fund conference hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron, he also feels that "when it's about my fashion shows, I want to make sure that people enjoy them and have a bit of light in their life."