Balmain Menswear Spring Summer 2016 Paris
The opening choir of "The Military God" made guests jump out of their skins and into their assigned seats. For his first Balmain Menswear runway show, Olivier Rousteing seemed to mark the transition between his erstwhile hands-on presentations and this grander setting, complete with a star-studded front row.
A letter left on seats by Rousteing expressed his thought process in the elaboration of this collection. "One of the most fascinating things about designing is the – for lack of a better word – "therapeutic value" of what we create. Clothing changes self-perceptions – after all, isn't that the whole point of this industry?" he wrote.
The collection stood at a cross-roads of cultural influences and the desert exploration embodied a metaphor for creation. At the end of the road, the created object was a cathartic symbol. The mindset he referenced in his note was understanding and the quest for experiences, rather than martial valor. Consequently, proportions leaned less towards the tightly wound and more towards the ease of the wanderer. Waists relaxed, crotches dropped slightly. A short-sleeved, shorts-length trompe-l'oeil safari suit parlayed its way to the forefront. The contemplative mood was best embodied in the draped jersey, crossing fluidly down the front of tops and even a jumpsuit. Like other designers, he gave nobility, and even a veneer of strength, to everyday items, like sweatpants. On jackets, lions and Phoenixes were emblazoned, an affirmation of inner strength.
Meanwhile, the women who dotted the line-up were Amazons. Never has a crochet dress seemed so fierce and sultry. If Mad Max had been a court play rather than a roadside epic, this would have no doubt been the perfect wardrobe to attire Furiosa.
In allowing catharsis to come across so strong, Rousteing showed a more vulnerable – and dare we say, softer – side, he proposed a collection that felt luxurious and thrillingly glamorous. "Am I dead inside?" wailed Muse as Rousteing's soul-diers stalked by once more. Not while he still draws breath, the bashfully defiant salute seemed to say.