If Olivier Rousteing had a case of the nerves before his first collection for Balmain hit the showroom, the scene at the company's Paris headquarters today likely fixed him right up. Buyers at every table busily wrote orders. Maybe you couldn't call it Balmainia, but it came pretty darn close. The 25-year-old knows the house formula—he worked under Christophe Decarnin for two years—and his Resort lineup is very much in the rock 'n' roll spirit that his former boss was known for.
Elvis in Las Vegas was a reference point for an evening jacket beaded in red, navy, gold, and white and trimmed in gold chains, but the King could never fit himself into its super-narrow sleeves. Smokings and military-sharp blazers had similarly attenuated proportions; shoulders were strong but not "tennis ball"-big. Still, the silhouette wasn't always so demanding: Eagle-print jersey tees and track pants literally slouched off the body, and a matching bomber and running shorts look in the same Americana/biker girl motif had a chill sensibility—not that you'd want to work out in clothes with price tags like these. Under Rousteing, elaborate, couture-grade handwork will continue to be a calling card for Balmain, and the sun-bleached Native American embroidery covering a jacket, a miniskirt, and an itty-bitty dress will command big bucks. But he smartly made inroads on the lower end of the price spectrum, too. A newly launched bathing suit range will be an easy sell to fans of the label's sexy vibe.
Can Rousteing generate the sort of excitement that Decarnin stirred up at the height of the label's popularity a couple of years ago? It'll take a runway show or two to tell for sure. In his favor is the fact that fashion already seems to be over its brief minimal phase. Another thing he has going for him: Like his predecessor, he cuts a mean jacket.