(Paris) Followed by 8 million fans on Instagram, friend of celebrities, the stylist Olivier Rousteing rocks the codes just like Jean-Paul Gaultier had done for whom he designed a haute couture collection, unveiled Wednesday evening.
At the age of 36, including more than 10 as artistic director of Balmain, he has managed to transform this French luxury house known in a restricted circle into an unmissable jet-set meeting place mixing footballers and supermodels.
“Olivier Rousteing was able to project his vision of Balmain despite early criticism. He was one of the first to reach a million followers on Instagram, he assumed to admire Kim Kardashian, who was not at the time in the canons of the world of fashion and this popular culture that some could judge as a little vulgar”, analyzes Serge Carreira, lecturer at Sciences Po Paris.
For this luxury specialist, it is the fact of “assuming their popular tastes and sharing the dream of fashion with as many people as possible” that brings him closer to Jean-Paul Gaultier, who bowed out in January 2020, after 50 years in business.
From now on, the latter invites a young designer each season to make a haute couture collection for him: after the Japanese Chitose Abe from Sacai, there was the Belgian Glenn Martens from Y/Project and now Olivier Rousteing.
Hip-hop and H&M
Fashion shows to the rhythm of hip-hop, castings under the sign of diversity or a collaboration with H & M in 2015: Olivier Rousteing has multiplied the steps to make the world of luxury understandable for young people and “democratize” fashion.
Unlike most designers who cultivate discretion, he is himself a star: his appearance triggers the crackle of flashes when he goes up the red carpet in Cannes with Cara Delevingne in an evening dress in a white suit adorned with golden brooches. black Balmain or when he takes his place in the front row at the Schiaparelli fashion show on Monday in Paris.
He claims the glamorous aesthetic for a strong and free woman: his embroidered and structured dresses sublimated Naomi Campbell and Carla Bruni at the Balmain 10th anniversary show in September. He also defends a new, less rigid form of masculinity where necklines and sequins are in order.
“There will always be ‘ancient’ men, in the cliché of virility, authority, but there are also a lot of men who want to get out of it”, he underlined in an interview with Release.
On the last day of haute couture which ends Thursday in Paris, Olivier Rousteing will unveil his first gender-neutral high jewelry collection for Balmain, “which reflects the bold and inclusive spirit of the historic fashion house”.
The popularity of Olivier Rousteing, one of the few black or mixed-race designers in the world of luxury, took a turn after the broadcast in 2019 of the documentary wonder boy (on Netflix), in which he splits the armor and recounts his search for his birth mother.
A little boy of Ethiopian and Somalian origins, he was born under X then was adopted by a Bordeaux family.
Last fall, shortly after his anniversary show, he posted a shocking photo on Instagram and recounted having been seriously burned a year earlier in the explosion of his chimney, and having hidden it out of “shame” in an environment where “the obsession with perfection” reigns.
The text is accompanied by a spectacular photo: his torso, his arms and the top of his head are covered with strips of gauze and he has burn marks on his face.
A way to break a taboo. “I realized that the power of social networks is to reveal only what you want to show”, he wrote then.
“There is a generational dimension in his speaking about his life, even about his intimate moments”, underlines Serge Carreira, whose objective is to “tell the source of his commitments”.