The athlete-as-superstar message could not be any stronger than it is right now, two weeks into the World Cup. "You feel it, right?" said Balmain's Olivier Rousteing during a concise appointment-only show of his Spring collection. But if the designer was thinking ahead to the players who might eventually sport one of his tricked-out Perfectos or graphic bomber jackets, he certainly steered clear of a soccer-derivative theme. As he described it, the offering was "more me than ever," even while drawing inspiration from seventies-era skiers and race car drivers. Rousteing has found his comfort zone with a range that favors streetwear over suiting.
As with his women's collection, the silhouettes here were body conscious—and sweatpants and sweat-blazers don't usually fit this well without a lot of tailoring. The embellished jackets covered in elaborate Navajo patterning required three weeks' worth of workmanship. All that beading and leather weaving amounts to an irresistible showpiece for conspicuous consumers; but really, it also represents Balmain's history of savoir faire. And Rousteing is not above paying respect; the number 44 stood out from the crest of a blazer, signifying the house's longtime address on rue François I. He also mentioned his respect for Jean-Claude Killy, a three-time Olympic gold medalist at the 1968 Grenoble Games; apparently, the designer conceived his open-toe sport boots with the ski champion in mind.
The testosterone-fueled vibe, meanwhile, was meant to feel as American as it did French, thus aiming the collection squarely at the music performers and athletes who help maintain Balmain's street cred—although Rousteing's own Q score is likely quite high. It's funny how the model in the photos bears an uncanny resemblance to the designer, which may or may not have been intentional. Either way, wearing Balmain is an exercise in ego flexing.