Balmain Ready To Wear Fall Winter 2013 Paris

When a brand is so firmly entrenched into one aesthetic that it define a particular time in fashion it can be incredibly hard not to look dated once the fashion world has moved on to the next big thing. This is the problem facing the Balmain brand.

Christophe Decarnin took over the struggling house in the mid naughties. He gave it an instant direction with his fun loving rock ‘n’ rock style of sharply tailored pants, embellished mini dresses and strong, shoulder padded jackets. As each season passed the collections became increasingly elaborate and exponentially more expensive to the point that when the recession hit it was given as example of designer decadence.

The abrupt exit of Decarnin in 2011 put the young Olivier Rousteing in the driver’s seat. Since his nomination to the post Rousteing proved that he could pull off the ornate and sexy style Decarnin had started, in fact he could even do it a bit better. But that was then. This is now. And now Balmain has progressed to the point that it has become something of a caricature of the style it helped reincarnate.

In his show notes for the collection Rousteing is quoted as saying that he is an optimist and that above all, “that’s what I wanted this collection to be-upbeat, modern and real,” said the designer.

The show was arguably upbeat if covering rich shimmering jewel tone pieces in geometric crystal beading and playing a medley of Led Zeppelin’s music on the soundtrack is seen as cherry attire. But modern and real… it would be difficult to describe a collection that features exaggerated padded linebacker shouldered tops and jackets in angora or quilted fabrics that came paired with high waisted lame sarouel paints or draped mini skirts in taffeta in those terms.

Rousteing needs to take his talents as a designer, because he is talented, in a dramatically new direction. Only then will this house stop looking like a parody of itself.

- Jessica Michault