Darren Criss Performs at Glittery Balmain Spring Men's Show in Paris

Atmosphere at the Balmain Homme show -Getty-H 2019
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Creative director Olivier Rousteing partnered with AIDS charity (RED) for his presentation and later teamed up with Barry's Bootcamp on collaborative activewear to benefit an LGBTQ cause.

Parisians take the summer solstice seriously, as an opportunity to throw a city-wide “fête de la musique,”’ where every street corner café is awake with live music. Taking the yearly ritual to the next level, on Friday, Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing seized the opportunity to combine his spring-summer 2020 men’s show with his own Balmain-branded music fest, starring Darren Criss on vocals.

As the concept generally allows locals to hear music free of charge, Rousteing decided his fashion show-cum-festival should likewise be open to the public. So he offered over 1,500 free tickets to the spectacle (distributed via lottery) and partnered with the AIDS charity organization (Red) — co-founded in 2006 by U2 frontman and activist Bono and Bobby Shriver — with proceeds from food, drinks and limited-edition Balmain Festival merchandise sold at the fest benefiting the cause. “I’ve met with Bono several times to discuss different ways fashion can help; this is what the night is about, helping the world to change,” Rousteing told The Hollywood Reporter.

The men’s fashion show (peppered with some ladies' resort looks) opened with a series of formal tailored white styles perfect for the red carpet, followed by more of Rousteing’s over-the-top mirrored sequined fare. Shoulders were noticeably larger and silhouettes were fuller, with plenty of ease. The mix included a tuxedo jacket paired with silver Mylar-esque pants, iridescent finishes such as clear plastic on trenches and jackets, and '80s-style oversize double-breasted jackets with fitted waistbands.

For daytime, faded denim was mixed with a sherbet palette, which had an L.A.-slash-Miami Vice feel. Varsity jackets and quilted bombers in pastel satins were followed by more formal wear in the same fabric. The ladies co-opted some of the shapes with oversized blazer dresses and tux-inspired jumpsuits. And there were plenty of rock star-worthy spangled jackets. A black-and-white series closed the show with a dizzying array of stripes, polka dots and solids.

The designer enlisted some of his VIP friends, such as actors Darren Criss and Charlie Puth, to help with the afterparty. Criss was instrumental in making the event come together by sharing tips of the trade garnered by his own Elsie Fest in New York City, created in 2015 to highlight music from the stage and screen as a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

“Olivier and I met in Doha and he said he wanted to stage a mini rock show during his next collection,” Criss told THR. When the designers told Criss he wanted some cool pop and rock songs, Criss responded: 'Whatever you want, I got you!'"

Following the runway show, Criss performed a lineup of rock-slash-Glee standards such as Queen's “Don’t Stop Me Now," “Bad Reputation” and “Satisfaction”; Criss was joined at the piano by Rousteing for the iconic French song by Joe Dassin, “Les Champs Elysées.” His set wrapped with Criss’ popular rendition of Katy Perry's “Teenage Dream.” British musician Rory Charles Graham (known as Rag 'n' Bone Man) and the British band Years and Years also performed.

Not one to skip a beat, Rousteing showed up Saturday night to celebrate another effort in the name of charity — this time with Barry’s Bootcamp, the community-oriented fitness sensation that started in 1998 in Los Angeles and will officially open its first Paris location Sunday, June 23. Rousteing has created a five-piece collaborative line of hoodies and shorts (in a limited run of 105 items) sold at the new Paris location. Twelve pieces will also be sold at auction on barrysbootcamp.com. One hundred percent of proceeds benefit the charity Le Refuge, an association in France that aids and supports at-risk LBGTQ teens aged 18 to 25. The collection marks the first time the fitness brand has partnered with a luxury designer. 

“Let’s be honest, France is still a bit homophobic. So when they asked me which [charity] I wanted to work with, I suggested Le Refuge to help young gays and trans with no place to go to find comfort, support and love,” said Rousteing. “I collaborate with what I love and believe in. It’s part of my life that I want promote.”

It was also a natural fit for Barry’s, said CEO Joey Gonzalez: “We have a global charity initiative called United We Sprint, which is about embracing everyone and helps expand rights and support to LBGTQ families.” Gonzales added that arriving in Paris was also quite organic: “I have been getting emails from French residents for the last two or three years who travel out and experience Barry’s and then want it for themselves,” he said. “Because we were among the first boutique fitness concepts, we have the courage to enter markets that others don’t.”

Rousteing noted that it was Balmain CEO Massimo Piombini who first urged him to join Barry’s Milan location, where the designer spends a lot of time, and it was love at first sight. He was soon posting video content of his own volition on his Instagram feed. “Barry’s is more than a gym; it’s an institution,” Rousteing told THR. “Everyone I know goes, from my friends in L.A. to London to Milan. What I love about it is the sense of community. We are together and pushing our strength together.”