THE ROUSTEING ERATHE KEY CAMPAIGNSBALMAIN CAMPAIGNS: 2011-2021
PLAY THE EPISODE 3 OF THE SECOND SEASON OF L'ATELIER BALMAIN
SPRING 2014: RIHANNA
“Of course, I wanted to have Rihanna in this campaign because, in addition to being my good friend, she’s also a muse and, above all, a modern fashion icon. And I love how she really owned the clothes—her attitude was that of an ‘80s supermodel.”
SPRING 2016: THE SUPERMODELS
“While we shot these images, I had to smile as I imagined how my adolescent self would have reacted with utter disbelief if someone could have traveled back in time to tell me that one day, I would be in a New York studio watching Steven Klein shoot Cindy, Claudia and Naomi for my Spring 2016 campaign—for those four singular talents have inspired me from day one.
When I was a schoolboy in Bordeaux, it was their editorials that first made clear to me the amazing transformative power of fashion. Still today, many years on, their iconic images are often found amongst the jumble on mood boards in my (and almost every other designer’s) atelier. To say that working with them was a dream come true is absolutely not an exaggeration.
For this campaign, there was never any question of which direction to take. It was obvious that there was no need for any special installation or any type of lighting tricks—Pascal, Steven and I knew that the unique combination of Balmain’s Spring 2016 designs and these powerful women was more than enough. Therefore, lighting is clean and direct, and those three amazing women are front and center.
Watching Cindy, Claudia, Naomi and Steven instinctively work together, I was struck by the confidence, professionalism and grace on display in front of me. There was never any doubt that the final images would be anything but perfect. Looking at them now, I like to think that perhaps these shots might also, someday, form part of some future designer’s mood board.”
FALL 2016: KANYE’S “WOLVES”
“On a chilly afternoon in early February 2016, I was at Madison Square Garden, completely blown away (just like the thousands of people around me), as all of us were hearing Kanye’s Life Of Pablo for the very first time.
In particular, the song Wolves, with its beautifully haunting spirituality, made a strong impression on me—from the moment I heard that song, I knew we had to use it for this campaign. A few days later, when I congratulated Kanye, I let him know that. I was thrilled to hear—immediately—that he was on board. I was excited to see how involved he wanted to be—for, in addition to his music talents, he’s got an amazing cinematographic instinct.
The house campaigns are always an absolute joy to be a part of. This one, in particular, was a dream come true. It was shot right after the Met Ball. Pascal, Steven and I pulled together as many members of the “Balmain Army” who were in town, and we spent two days creating a true 360-degree collaboration—mixing dance, music, lyrics, photography and fashion in a new way that reflects the unique, diverse and modern side of this historic house. I couldn’t be happier or more grateful to all who played a part in the creation of this.”
FALL 2017: A PARIS DIARY
“My days are like everybody’s: they start too early and end too late. And, in between, it sometimes feels like all I do is rush from one meeting (late) to the next (late). With a schedule like that, the beauty of Paris—which made such an incredible impact upon me when I arrived here as a child and then later, as a young student—has all too often been reduced to just a blur outside a taxi window, a simple backdrop for daily routines, something that no longer even registers.
But things changed for me in 2017. After our national elections, just like so many of my fellow citizens, I began focusing more on what it means to be French and why it is that we choose to remain here—and as part of that examination, I began rediscovering what has always been here, including the magnificence of the streets surrounding me.
This campaign, one of my most personal, is what I called my “Paris Diary.” During two long days and one never-ending night, my team and I covered the city, trekking from arrondissement to arrondissement. Beginning at 44, rue François Premier—Balmain’s historic home—and pausing our journey at some of the French capital’s iconic addresses (Le Palais Royal, Le Saint Sulpice, Le Panthéon, La Place des Victoires…), we captured Balmain’s Fall 2017 offerings, setting members of the diverse and strong Balmain Army in front of the timeless beauty of our Ville Lumière.
I’ve always explained that part of the draw that social media has for me is its unique removal of any filters or middlemen—allowing me to communicate directly with those who are interested in what we are creating. I wanted to photograph this campaign for the same reasons: to have the images directly reflect my vision of Balmain’s latest creations, as well as my love for the singular beauty of the city that I call home.”
FALL 2018: MILLA JOVOVICH
“Like every French kid growing up in the nineties, I was obsessed with “The Fifth Element.” So, obviously, there’s no need to tell me that Milla Jovovich is an incredible actor and a stunningly beautiful woman. I’ve long admired her for her strength, style and talents—which is why I’ve often dreamed of finding a way to work with her on a Balmain project. That’s why I was beyond excited when she agreed to sign on for our Fall-Winter 2018 campaign. I couldn’t wait to see the first images from the London shoot. I knew enough to expect great things—but, honestly, I wasn’t expecting to be so blown away, so quickly. From the moment I saw the raw footage, I knew that we had already captured exactly what we needed.
So, as Leeloo said in “The Fifth Element,” Boooooooom ba da booom. Done. We had it. No need for complicated edits or even for a soundtrack. I knew as soon as I saw it that all we needed to do was keep it simple and retain the focus on what Milla was doing in that incredible space. That strong, minimal style perfectly complemented the season’s styles."
FALL 2018: BALMAIN BEATS
“As everyone probably has already heard, music is extremely important to me. My collection notes almost always highlight the songs, artists and genres that inspire me, and many of the house’s campaigns have focused on music and musicians.
A few years ago, I’ve found myself obsessing on one special, inescapable—although usually unnoticed—type of music: the ubiquitous notes and beats that accompany almost every moment of our lives. We tend to ignore most of our environment’s background sounds until something suddenly seems out of whack—but I’ve been pushing myself to be more attentive to those notes, working to create a sort of aural inventory of the sounds making up the different parts of my daily soundtrack. These varied tones, bells and beats—slamming doors, beeping games, buzzing motors, clinking coins, dragging feet—when pulled together into unexpected combinations, can help us reflect on the unexpected beauty to be found in the everyday, reminding us of our many changing moods and small joys.
I was excited to learn that Jake and Ludwig shared my fascination with these small, yet powerful daily beats and thrilled to see how they were able to play with the potential of those sounds to create this unique music video for Balmain’s Fall 2018 Campaign. To match the freshness of the sounds, we relied on an array of talents, mixing icons—Milla Jovovich and Daphne Guiness—with a selection of young, daring creators from all parts of the world. Each has the passion, boldness, talent and confidence that make them perfect representatives of today’s modern and inclusive Balmain Army."
DECEMBER 2020: TAKING IT TO THE STREETS
On December 9, 2020, Balmain’s designs literally stopped Parisians in their tracks. For the presentation of his Pre-Fall 2021 collection to the public, Balmain Creative Director Olivier Rousteing built upon one distinctive element of house’s heritage, looking back to founder Pierre Balmain’s unusual location preference for many of his shooting. For, in a clear sign of his love for the city that inspired so many of his designs, Pierre Balmain often had photographers shoot his designs outside, on the busy sidewalks directly in front of Balmain’s iconic flagship.
Channeling that unique history, Balmain’s large boutique windows on Paris’ beautiful Rue Saint-Honoré offered direct access to the creation of the house’s newest campaign—as Rousteing shot models wearing his latest designs in full view, with the thick plate-glass windows guaranteeing the necessary social distancing during the pandemic. Startled Parisian passersby and traffic screeched to a sudden halt, in order to stare at the unusual sight, while countless Balmain followers around the world followed the event live on the house’s video and social-media channels. It wasn’t just the unexpected sight of seeing a Creative Director shooting his own creations in the middle of Paris’ most famous shopping street that grabbed people’s attention—the collection itself was worthy of stopping traffic. For Olivier Rousteing designs contained a bold, bright and ebullient spirit that made them shine brightly in the French Capital’s grey winter light.
FALL 2021: FRACTURE
"My Balmain team and I are determined to always break down boundaries, as we search for new and compelling ways to communicate with an ever-expanding audience. Of course, we never seek to shock or startle just for the sake of shocking or startling—but we do know that today’s fashion universe could definitely do with an infusion of fresh, diverse and distinctive voices, telling entertaining and unexpected stories.
That’s why “Fracture” struck us as the ideal way to present our latest collection. Instead of opting for the expected seasonal campaign shooting and video, my team and I partnered with Britain’s Channel 4 to create a five-episode dramatic series. The story takes place in the outskirts of L.A., at Le Rêve, a run-down motel that serves as the temporary home for a cast of incredible characters. And just as in every Balmain creation, music is key. The “Fracture” plot focuses on songwriter Mya (Jesse Jo Stark), as she works through some creative and familial issues with the help of her sibling Ari (Tommy Dorfman), her friend Edie (Ajani Russell) and the poet Noa (Charles Melton)."
BUILDING ON BALMAIN’S FILM HERITAGE
“The choice of an episodic series made perfect sense to us. After all of our endless nights of endless streaming during lockdown, everyone on the Balmain team was already well aware of the addictive power of a drama series. And I loved how this choice of medium allowed us to blend storytelling, music and fashion in such a seamless manner. Michail, Catherine and Glenn created this one-of-a-kind story and Bradley & Pablo ensured that it was told perfectly. I am particularly pleased that their characters highlight the unique potential of friendship and artistic creation to pull us from dark moments—which is definitely a lesson that many of us learned over the past year. The casting could not have been better. Tommy Dorfman, Ajani Russell and Charles Melton are simply superb. As is Jesse Jo Stark—and that beautiful music of hers was stuck on a non-stop loop inside my head for months.
I love that “Fracture” helped us to reach a much wider public, while allowing those who already know the house a new way of experiencing Balmain. And, as unexpected as this campaign-as-a-series might be, I also love that “Fracture” actually builds upon a long and distinct house history. Pierre Balmain adored using his designs to help tell stories. He worked on the costumes for a multitude of ballet and theatre pieces, and he was responsible for the wardrobes of over fifty European and American studio productions. And, just like us, our founder seems to have had no fear in pushing against the limits of his time. For example, while other Parisian couturiers refused to dress a young Brigitte Bardot, due to fears that their society clients would be uncomfortable seeing house designs on “a vulgar display on the screen,” Pierre Balmain was more than happy to create outfits for some of that star’s most iconic roles. And Balmain’s designs for “The Millionairess”—which definitely accentuated Sophia Loren’s famous curves—might have been one of the reasons why that film was ultimately rated as “not suitable for children.”
THE ROUSTEING ERA: THE KEY CAMPAIGNS
Balmain Creative Director: Olivier Rousteing
Episode Direction and Production: Seb Lascoux
Balmain Historian: Julia Guillon
Episode Coordination: Jeremy Mace
Webpage Layout and Coordination: Léa Bouyssou
Episode researched, written and presented by John Gilligan
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