Balmain’s golden boy Olivier Rousteing breaks new floor

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“Jewellery has always been part of my aesthetic, as you can imagine. It’s part of my DNA,” says Olivier Rousteing. From behind his grand black marble desk on the prime of Balmain’s headquarters in Paris’s eighth arrondissement, he pushes up the sleeves of his artfully shredded Breton knit to disclose forearms adorned with stacks of bangles and bracelets.

“This, [he gestures to his right] is Balmain costume jewellery. This is my Rolex, this is my Cartier…” On his different arm is a extra modest and maybe sentimental choice, together with souvenirs from his uncommon moments off-duty and a string of black picket beads given to him by his father. “I love to mix my jewellery with some that, say, I got on holidays. I’m in Sicily or Mykonos or LA and I’m just going to get something that’s not too expensive.”

This mix of exhausting luxurious tempered with accessibility has lengthy knowledgeable Rousteing’s method at Balmain, the place he has sought to open up the world of trend since he was made the primary black artistic director of a significant French luxurious home in 2011, aged simply 25. Balmain’s turnover has elevated seven-fold since Rousteing joined, a milestone at a time when the speed of change of artistic directorship in luxurious trend is so excessive, many barely get an opportunity to unpack their luggage.

On the one hand, Rousteing has positioned the home as a palace of high-octane, star-powered glamour, wooing celeb mates akin to Kim Kardashian and Rihanna — each of whom starred of their first excessive trend campaigns at Balmain — in addition to former first girl of France, Carla Bruni, who closed the catwalk for his tenth anniversary present in 2021. On the opposite, he has peeled again the curtains on trend’s interior sanctum, opening up invites to a few of his runway reveals from the standard 500 or so business varieties to six,000 followers and rebranding the occasion as an annual Balmain Festival.

Balmain Emblem beads necklace in yellow gold, onyx beads, diamonds and tsavorite, £13,000, balmain.com © Alex Brunet & Olga Varova for the FT

Balmain Emblem massive cuff in yellow gold, lacquer, onyx, diamonds and tsavorite, £26,000; Balmain Emblem signet ring, in yellow gold, onyx, lacquer, set with diamonds and tsavorite, £15,000; Balmain Labyrinth Frieze ring in yellow gold, £2,000; Balmain Labyrinth Frieze pave ring in yellow gold set with diamonds, £6,400, all at balmain.com © Alex Brunet & Olga Varova for the FT

It is smart, then, that Rousteing would add one other class to his Balmain portfolio with the primary ever high quality jewelry assortment within the model’s 77-year historical past — and his timing couldn’t be higher. McKinsey predicts that high-end branded high quality jewelry is about to develop at a price of 8-12 per cent yearly between 2019 and 2025, roughly thrice larger than the general luxurious items sector. With the overwhelming majority of gross sales nonetheless going to unbranded objects, the class is ripe for a significant luxurious takeover. Since the beginning of 2019, LVMH has acquired Tiffany & Co for $15.8bn, Richemont has purchased Buccellati from Chinese group Gangtai and trend homes Gucci, Prada and Giorgio Armani have launched high quality jewelry strains.

Laid out in entrance of the designer, beside a bottle of Perrier Citron and a packet of cigarettes, is an edited choice of the brand new assortment, made up of 32 rings, necklaces, brooches, earrings and bracelets (most of it’s already on mortgage to shiny magazines to {photograph}) with costs starting from £1,600 to £31,000. The fashion is characteristically brassy, edgy however surprisingly glossy, realised in yellow gold, onyx and diamonds, the one color an electrical, chlorophyll-green tsavorite dotted right here or there. Each piece is made with 18k recycled or Responsible Jewellery Council-certified gold and traceable gem stones. The French workshops chosen to make the jewelry are additionally RJC-certified to make sure better transparency through the craftsmanship course of.

Sunglasses, pendant, onyx beads, rings, wristwatch, and bangles
From left: Oliver Rousteing’s personal sun shades; Balmain Labyrinth Frieze pendant in yellow gold, £1,700; Balmain Emblem beads necklace in yellow gold, onyx beads, diamonds and tsavorite, £13,000; Balmain Labyrinth PB single stud earring in yellow gold set with a diamond, £2,000; Balmain Emblem signet ring, in yellow gold, onyx, lacquer, set with diamonds and tsavorite, £15,000; Balmain Labyrinth PB pave signet ring in yellow gold set with diamonds £9,800; Balmain Labyrinth Frieze ring in yellow gold, £2,000; Balmain Labyrinth Frieze pave ring in yellow gold set with diamonds, £6,400; Oliver Rousteing’s personal watch; Balmain Emblem massive cuff in yellow gold, lacquer, onyx, diamonds and tsavorite, £26,000; Balmain Labyrinth Frieze pavé bangle in yellow gold set with diamonds, £14,000, all Balmain out there at balmain.com © Alex Brunet & Olga Varova for the FT

Without a high quality jewelry archive from which to attract, Rousteing riffed on previous designs from the home’s ready-to-wear, with the intention of constructing future heirlooms. “Balmain is about the glamour, it’s about timelessness as well, that feeling of heritage of a house that was built in 1945 by Monsieur Balmain after the second world war. There is a sense of a couture-feeling in my clothes, of uniqueness and timelessness, and what more than a jewellery line to create something timeless?” asks Rousteing. “My [hope] with this jewellery will be that someone buys them and in 10 years gives it to their child or grandchild. This, to me, will be the biggest pride, bringing a memory to a family and becoming a heritage.”

The assortment revolves round key home codes such because the coat of arms, usually pressed into the gold buttons that end the home’s signature blazers. In the jewelry providing it may be discovered on delicate, medallion-like discs that punctuate the finer items within the assortment or stamped on chunky signet rings and cuffs. There’s an opulent crosshatch accented with a jewel at its apexes, first seen in Rousteing’s celebrated Fabergé-inspired assortment of 2012. The home’s labyrinth monogram, paying homage to a Greek key sample, first launched by founder Pierre Balmain in 1970 in a nod to French Renaissance gardens, runs the size of bracelets, wraps across the finger or is abbreviated into single pendants or earrings. Finally, the gathering’s assertion necklace, half gold chain, half jet black beading interrupted by a coat of arms focus was impressed by the picket beaded bracelet from Rousteing’s father.

“What I love about this collection is that it is genderless,” provides Rousteing. “I think modernity is not in the design. For me, modernity is a way of thinking. Because what can be modern for you might not be modern for someone else and, I have to say, [I’m not just talking about] the jewellery, it’s in relation to everything.”

Olivier Rousteing’s personal watch; Balmain Emblem massive cuff in yellow gold, lacquer, onyx, diamonds and tsavorite, £26,000; Balmain Emblem signet ring, in yellow gold, onyx, lacquer, set with diamonds and tsavorite, £15,000; Balmain Labyrinth Frieze ring in yellow gold, £2,000; Balmain Labyrinth Frieze pave ring in yellow gold set with diamonds, £6,400, all Balmain out there at balmain.com © Alex Brunet & Olga Varova for the FT

Rousteing, adopted by white, middle-class mother and father and raised in Bordeaux is a uncommon instance of an individual of color in a high-ranking artistic place at a luxurious trend home, an imbalance he’s vocal about. “I have pushed to change the codes, to be more inclusive, to talk about diversity when there was a lack of conversation around it,” says Rousteing. “Being the first French black designer in a French luxury house, I decided for those 10 years to fight and to make sure that we bring a conversation to the table and not keep it in silence. So I worked on my casting and campaigns, bringing music and the world of hip hop to the fashion industry. And by bringing different ambassadors from Kim [Kardashian], Rihanna, Justin Bieber, I had the chance to create that world that you call the Balmain Army.”

Transparency and private acceptance have additionally been part of Rousteing’s personal journey. In October 2020, the designer suffered first and second diploma burns alongside the size of his physique. Though often candid — a movie crew documented the seek for his organic mother and father for Netflix’s 2019 characteristic Wonder Boy — Rousteing saved the accident and subsequent year-long therapeutic course of a secret, opening as much as his followers in an Instagram publish and an op-ed for Vogue, describing how the incident had pressured him to re-evaluate his obsession with authenticity and perfectionism.

Rousteing is enthusiastic about what a contemporary trend and jewelry home ought to symbolize: “Luxury doesn’t mean being exclusive. Opening the doors doesn’t mean not being chic. Opening the door means being inclusive, and the world needs inclusivity more and more. I would say that has been my fight and my obstacle in my decade, to make people understand. You see changes, but is it enough? No. At the end of the day, the fight is not over.” 

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Source: www.ft.com