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Exclusive Interview: Olivier Rousteing on the Balmain x H&M Collection

The wait is almost over—H&M’s latest designer collaboration with Balmain hits stores on November 5th, giving you the chance to join the ranks of the #HMBalmaination. The glamorous collection includes body tracing embellished dresses, satin miniskirts, leather trousers, opulent embroideries, and rope detailing—all reimagined from Balmain signature pieces. While skimming through the lookbook, you’ll recognize clothes worn on the red carpet by Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner alongside revisited designs, such as the oversized pearl-embellished jacket.

Ahead of the anticipated launch, we caught up with the Balmain creative director, Olivier Rousteing, and creative advisor of H&M, Ann-Sofie Johansson, to discuss what it takes to become a #BalmainArmy girl and what Rousteing thinks about Middle Eastern women and their approach to fashion.

NOURIAH Al SHATTI: What does it take to become a #BalmainArmy girl?

OLIVIER ROUSTEING: It’s about attitude and energy, about having the strength and confidence to be yourself and show your true character to the world. Fashion has the power to send a positive message and for my H&M collaboration, I wanted a new hashtag that would symbolize my beliefs. We created the #HMBalmaination to showcase the good vibes we have with H&M and also the new “nation” that’s forming around the world. Use the hashtag and you’re part of the Balmain nation.

What do you think about Middle Eastern women and their approach to fashion?

I love the women of the Middle East. For them, only the best will do and as a creative director, you can’t ask for anything more. When I’m designing, it’s amazing to know that there are customers like the women of the Middle East who want the best from me and want me to push myself to make something exceptional. I still have such amazing memories of New Year’s Eve in Dubai , where I celebrated with my friends Kendall [Jenner], Gigi [Hadid], and Chanel [Iman].

Is it true that you used to wait in line for H&M collaborations?

It is true. When I was a teenager, I was a real H&M kid. I was always in the store, finding the pieces that I could use to make my own look. I found my identity through fashion and H&M really helped me express myself. I was always at the front of the line for the designer collaborations and when it came time to design my own collection with H&M, I took myself back to that stage. I wanted to remember how it felt to wait in line, the excitement and the feeling when you want to be part of something so much. I want the Balmain x H&M collection to inspire the next generation and make kids realize that if they work hard and believe in themselves, their dreams can also come true.

What makes this particular collaboration unique from past guest designer collaborations?

ANN-SOFIE JOHANSSON: Olivier Rousteing has captured a new mood in fashion by connecting his brand with a fresh generation all around the world. I love how Olivier has such respect for the codes of Balmain, as well as the craftsmanship and traditional techniques. He takes all these skills and makes them relevant to the 21st century, creating pieces that are glamorous, desirable, and also fun to wear. Olivier has been so generous with this Balmain x H&M collaboration, giving us such an amazing range of pieces that I know our customers are going to love for seasons to come.

Tell us about your experience of working with Olivier Rousteing?

Olivier is such an inspiring young designer. He works so hard and has been deeply involved in creating every single piece of the collection. Every detail mattered to him; from the cut and fit to the quality of the fabrics, and the little things, such as zips and buttons. No matter how hard we were working, he made sure that everyone was having a good time. I think it’s an attitude that really comes across in the collection—his dedication to design and also his belief that fashion should be fun.

What are some of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of working on designer collaborations for H&M?

Our designer collaborations are always a challenge. With each collection, we want to capture the DNA of the brand, and we work hard with the designer and also our suppliers to make these pieces reach a high standard. The collaboration with Balmain features pieces with intricate detailing and embroidery. The challenge to produce them was massive, but the reward was immediate when we showed the first samples to Olivier. He was so happy with the results; it made all the hard work worthwhile.

The Balmain x H&M womenswear collection will be available at H&M stores and online from November 5th.

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