bringing a new attitude to fashion
Text | Karin Nelson
Photograph | Emma Summerton
Olivier Rousteing is black, 28, and not above posting shirtless selfies on Instagram. As the creative director of Balmain, all this makes him something of a rarity: Racial diversity, youth, and flagrant modernity are not characteristics commonly associated with venerable French fashion houses, much less with the designers at their helm. Yet Rousteing – who after three successful years on the job has made it clear that he is not a fashion footnote – is determined to change that. “My job is not just to design clothes but to also give a new vision to fashion,” he declares.As a certified millennial, Rousteing is also resolutely forward-thinking. That, coupled with the confidence that comes from the support of megastars like Kim Kardashian and Rihanna, who are frequently photographed in his clothes, has allowed him to chart a course for the house that is more inclusive of different cultures and ethnicities. For spring 2014 he cast Rihanna, whom he describes as “strong, sexy, at time androgynous – the new Madonna,” as the face of the brand. For fall, he presented a polished hip-hop/safari mash-up that opened with the black model Jourdan Dunn. But it is perhaps the photographs seen here, featuring Rihanna, Naomi Campbell, and Iman, that best express his vision for Balmain. “These women are inspiring to so many different people,” he says. “Bringing them together represents the concept I’m working toward.”
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