“It’s a scream that I had in me – and you will see it on the runway – a long journey, but it’s my own way and with the music, the soundtrack and everything, you will understand,” said Olivier Rousteing, 31, standing in a burnt orange T-shirt with smoky patterns like volcanic lava.
The Balmain designer has certainly created an erupting volcano in fashion, making clothes that are dramatic and uber-sexy; the height of vulgarity to some, but to others clothes that represent the strength and power of women.
As 80 outfits appeared on the runway, the models walking through a steely silver arch, the gold and black outfits looked as though they were on fire, a tie-dye flash of yellow moving down to wispy golden threads. This “burning woman” look became more intense with mesh wrapped over the breasts and the skirt threads flying in the air to reveal thigh-high snakeskin boots.
These were not sex pots, but strong women marching forward in ever more fiery colors.
“Listen to the music – it’s the rebellion you’re going to hear,” Olivier had told me. “To change the world a bit, and whatever happens politically or in the roles of women, I think we need a bit more rebelliousness. I have always been a rebel in fashion, I have always believed in women’s strength. For the last three seasons, everybody is going for the role of women – and this is something I’ve always believed since the beginning.
“Today, I am older and I think I express it in a different way,” he continued. “These women are the Amazons of the future. They come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. There are no skin colors – it’s only about diversity. It’s about the strength of women. They are predators, they are not scared of anything, and I think, today more than ever, we need to push the boundaries, not only in fashion but politically as well.”
Whatever the storyline, these were indeed women empowered by signs and symbols. Some things, like lip clips, might have been tribal totems since the designer said he had imagined women marching across awe-inspiring landscapes like the Amazon and Serengeti. Other pieces seemed almost historic, like a black leather tunic punched with studs, ending in hay-colored fringing that skimmed the knees.
Then came the biggest surprise – angry wild animals as totems. This instantly recalled another designer – Riccardo Tisci, who has just left Givenchy. But Rousteing said that the idea came from the archive of Pierre Balmain and formed part of the house’s history. This might have referred also to a velour dress with a tiger print from neck to ankles, or a dress with mythical-like silvered wings wrapped around the body.
The show was way too long. It seemed like the purchase of the house of Balmain by Mayhoola, the same Qatari company that bought Valentino and pushed it forward, might have encouraged Rousteing to create a collection to excess.
But the show had a raw energy and, in an unlikely way, the clothes, even when that meant Las Vegas style dresses in gilded palettes or with a crocodile tail swinging, seemed to have a story to tell.