Balmain's Olivier Rousteing on Rihanna, social media and the future
Shaking things up
To run a fashion empire at the age of 27, you have to be not only confident but very talented too. Olivier Rousteing, no doubt, has it all.
Young creative director for Balmain met us in his atelier, or, how he loves to call it, 'His Universe'. The office is located not far away from Balmain's boutique. From the first second after meeting Olivier you can feel how energetic he is. Only two shots of espresso and Rousteing is ready for an interview.
It is possible to feel The spirit of Balmain in the air here. And your individuality too. Tell us more about your studio.
Here you can see all my sources of inspiration and my moodboards. But this is not only for work and clothing. I like to be surrounded by my private things - here, for example, you see CDs with 'Miami Vice' or letters from friends and relatives. I like that the studio is located in the centre of Paris and everything I need is very close to each other - my office, atelier and store.
I know that I will get everything I want if I work hard enough and fight for my dreams
You joined the Balmain team at the age of 25 and became creative director as soon as Christophe Decarnin left the company. He was a person who made everyone talking about almost forgotten French fashion house. How did you manage all the pressure?
I am very independent person. I left home when I was 18, studied fashion in Italy, got an internship in Roberto Cavalli after, and since that moment everything is happening so quickly. I got a job in Balmain as designer's assistant when I was 23. And when I was offered a position of creative director I could not believe that it was really happening. I thought they would ask some major designer like Tom Ford to join the team. Instead, they believed in me and my vision even though it was a risky decision.
Of course the pressure had to get me but I grew up in an environment where I always had to fight for what I wanted. All my life I have been proving something. Now I know that I will get everything I want if I work hard enough and fight for my dreams. It is very important not to forget that it is only clothing and that I have to keep right life balance.
You managed to turn Balmain into more youthful and funny and playful brand. Maybe this is due to your age and connection to modern culture?
The first thing that I have done after getting the position is to stylize all of my fashion shows. I found it very old- fashioned to hire stylists and consultants who will help me to make my clothes look good. I have my own perception, my own aesthetics that turn into what Balmain does. These are my ways of self expression and I want people to see it.
You are active twitter and Instagram user. Do you think that social media has an affect on your life and fashion world in general? Do you think that sometimes you may show too much?
Fashion world seems to be very closed and via social media I want to change this situation. I want to show that I am an ordinary man, that I can take a selfie after a night party, say 'I'm tired' or take a photo of chicken nuggets I had for lunch. Many famous designers of last generation lost their sense of humanity under the pressure that fashion has. This is why I think that social media can help you to stay who you are and be in touch with people. Even though I have a very luxury lifestyle I want other people not to forget that I am a human being. I want to give hope and share beautiful stories both through clothing that I create and social networks.
You chose Rihanna to present the brand in the spring ad campaign. You also called her 'new icon' many times. What makes her being ideal embodiment of Olivier Rousteing's Balmain?
Rihanna is a friend of mine and she really has this special Balmain girl's spirit. She knows what suits her, she is strong, she can wear PJs and look like she is on her way to the Red Carpet. She has right attitude towards fashion. As per the idea of the ad campaign I got it when I was only thinking about asking Rihanna to become face of the campaign. I wrote her a text 'Will you make my dream come true?' and she replied 'Yes'! Working with her was a lot of fun so I would not consider it even as a job. It was a great day in New York with loud music and nice food and a great company of people. She was trying the pieces and we just had a great time.
What are future plans for Balmain?
Even though Balmain is a French fashion house I want to bring it to international level. I always see inspiration in different sources and places - for example, pre-fall collection 2014 was dedicated to safari. I like mixing cultures because women I create my pieces for, are so different. I can create collection inspired by the Faberge, the next one I will dedicate to safari - I change themes each season but I always talk on the language of Balmain.
Do you think that a woman can look fabulous without spending a fortune on clothing?
Of course. When I work on the collection I sell the fairy tale but this tale is very close to reality. Women do not need to spend 25 thousand on a dress. She can visit our store and buy good looking blazer that she would be able to wear for the next couple of years. I make clothes for all women and I want to see my pieces on different girls. I see a lot of balmainesque pieces in other brands which are more democratic or mass- market and this is not a bad way to create classic Balmain look without spending a fortune.
So you are not against copying your pieces by other mass- market brands?
Not at all. I think that so dated to scream about it. Now everybody copies everything and I am proud that some people are inspired by what I create - this means that Balmain become trendsetter. And I am always happy to see young men and women who use Balmain as a source of creation of their own unique styles. For example, there is a girl in my office who once came to work wearing a black t-shirt with white crystals. She bought it either in Zara or in H&M but the t-shirt looked exactly like the pieces from Balmain's 'Diamond' collection. I found it funny and I like the colour palette. I think that fashion has to become more popular, more of a mass thing - like movies or music.
Tell me more about Balmain's team. I suppose you brought a lot of young and talented people with you when you became creative director.
I like what I do because I work with mazing people. Yes, our fashion house is very traditional but the team behind it is very young. We are like family, we spend a lot of time together and it is important for us to keep the very special atmosphere. Thanks to my team I do not have that feeling of tiredness after a long work day. We stay in the office late hours, just putting some loud music on and dancing. I have been working with this people since I joined Balmain as an assistant so we have been knowing each other for a long time.
Thanks to my team I do not have that feeling of tiredness after a long work day
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