Balmain fetes flagship New York store
Later is always better than never. After two years of opening, Balmain feted its newest New York retail space located on 59th street and Madison Avenue Wednesday night with a beaming Olivier Rousteing in tow. The creative director, who has helmed the 77-year-old French label for the last ten years, took time from greeting his loyal clients and fans to chat with FashionNetwork.com about the celebration.
"New York is such an inspiration for me," he said. "It's the city of dreams, dynamism, and energy."
Rousteing has always let Balmain bathe in its French-ness but maintains his goal this past decade was to push the brand in a global direction, something he saw in the founder.
"Mr. Balmain was among the first designers to travel to show his clothes, and he was fluent in English. It sounds kind of weird to say this, but at the time, that was rare."
According to the designer, the shiny and sleek shop boasts a "modern American vibe with an elegant French touch" and harkens back to the brand's first New York store, which opened in 1970 at 795 Madison Avenue.
Being back on the street was a dream for Rousteing, but he couldn't celebrate its opening due to the pandemic.
"Tonight is about enjoying what I tried to build and making this brand global. The mood is clear: everyone is enjoying the night, the clothes, and the energy that I tried to build," he said, adding, "I wouldn't be what I am without American support; not just celebrities but the press, retailers, wholesalers, and the clients, whoever came to my adventure at Balmain. This party is about thanking America."
On offer was the 10th-anniversary collection, which Rousteing showed to over 6,000 guests last September in Paris at the second Balmain Festival concert series.
"The pieces are incredibly represented here. This collection has been one of the best-sellers since I began. Many people bought the couture pieces such as the one on Naomi Campbell and the look on Carla Sarkozy."
He also attributes its success to his clientele. "I have loyal clients who followed me for my first show who can recognize that show in this collection. There is something they react to about nostalgia and fashion but also something about buying couture; it's like a piece of art for them," he continued, noting how frustrating it was to miss trunk shows during the pandemic.
"It's so inspiring to meet and talk to my clients tonight. It was almost like in the Seventies when designers were close to their customers. Tonight, I feel that."
Celebrities and fans such as Tommy Dorfman, Lea Michele, Precious Lee, Violetta Komyshan, Victor Glemaud, Ajani Russell, and Alexander Roth also got a sneak-peek at a new Balmain Non-Fungible Thread project the brand has launched.
The global partnership with MintNFT creators James Sun and Teddy Zee will offer an ongoing series of NFTs by the designer for a continuous thread, building upon and mirroring the designer's creative thread in his work at Balmain. Previously, the designer released an NFT in conjunction with Mattel's Barbie for the recent capsule collection sold at Neiman Marcus.
Speaking of Barbie, when asked by another reporter, Rousteing admitted his favorite Met Gala look was the one his brand supporter Kim Kardashian wore, which may be emblematic of the sort of struggle the young designer experienced starting at Balmain.
"I enjoyed the concept of how iconic [Kardashian] is today and how iconic Marilyn Monroe was. She brought them together with all the fights she had to be who she is today and respected by the fashion industry. Now, Kim showed her access to this most iconic dress… It's a good revolution."
Rousteing shared that his first New York visit was four months after starting at Balmain and he is still similarly awed even if the trip is brief. While here, he announced an undisclosed project with Netflix and is participating in a discussion at Parsons School of Design on a topic near and dear but also one that is a milestone of sorts.
On Thursday, he joined designer and founder of In The Blk, Victor Glemaud, and Brandice Daniel, founder of Harlem's Fashion Row and Icon 360, for the 'Fashion's Diversity: Where It Stands, Where It Stalls, Where It's Going' panel, moderated by WWD's Tara Donaldson and Abrima Erwiah, director of the Gromek Institute at Parsons and co-founder of Studio One Eighty Nine.
"After a decade of being a designer, I still have a lot of things to learn, but there are things I have learned that I want to teach that to the next generation," he reflected, adding, "My next step in the fashion industry is not to be the kid of the industry, but to become a guide, to explain what I went through, what they might go through. I want to inspire strength by telling them my story, so they won't give up."
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