It is hardly a secret that Balmain and its creative director, Olivier Rousteing, are situated in a special place in the fashion industry. The Paris-based brand is known for its pricey distressed garments (most of which stem from Rousteing’s predecessor Christophe Decarnin’s days at the house) and highly embellished designs, as well as for its Instagram-hungry creative director and his close alliance with all things Kardashian. Accordingly, Balmain has received no shortage of press in recent years, ranging from an array of less than stunning show reviews to an insane amount of press surrounding his dalliance with the famous reality television family. The Guardian’s Jess Cartner-Morley recently sat down with Rousteing to talk about just that …
On being accepted by the fashion industry: The reality of fashion is that the more success you have, the more haters you get. I am talking about journalists. But I understand that I will not always be loved in fashion, and that the only thing that matters is the business I am building. So, I don’t care. You can dislike my show, but don’t come to my show and then write 20 lines about how my face looks on Instagram! If that’s what you want to write, don’t bother coming to see six months’ hard work. Just stay home!
On Balmain’s celebrity fans and relationships: The night of the show, she [Rihanna] texted me and she was like, ‘Babe, I love that show, so beautiful, it was amazing.’ So I texted back, ‘What do you like?’ and she sent me a picture of the blue coat and I was like, ‘OK, I’ll send it tomorrow.’ There is no strategy. It comes from a text, from love and friendship. I don’t need PRs.
When you see someone wearing Balmain, there’s no contract. It’s a real relationship, and that’s the magic … When I post on Instagram about Justin [Bieber] or Lewis [Hamilton] or Kim [Kardashian] or Rihanna, that’s a real friendship I am showing. If I love your album, I’ll post about your music. But also, we can call each other at 5am when we just need to talk.
On Instagram: The point of my Instagram is to show the beauty of my life. I want to inspire people. Obviously, I’m not going to post a picture of me where I don’t feel like I am pretty, and I am not going to post a picture of my collection before it is ready. But everything is real. I can post a picture of a flower, of my grandma at Christmas.
On Kim Kardashian: I don’t care what anybody says about Kim. I love her. I love that she is a woman but has more power than so many men. And I love that she is so powerful but always takes care of the people she loves. And I admire her, because she is the best in the world at communicating with people.
On the business of fashion: Fashion is a business. If you have a job in fashion, you have that job because people want fashion – and they want my fashion. You can dislike my taste, but you can’t say I’m not relevant.
On the creative director role: School can teach you to be a great ‘designer’ but there is so much more to being a creative director. It means overseeing everything from the business to the fittings to the campaign to the stores. It means having a vision.
On luxury fashion: Some people feel luxury shouldn’t look like what the masses like. They feel it should be more elitist. But Balmain talks to young people. It’s not about selling to them, it’s about making them part of my world. And the people who can afford to buy luxury fashion, today those women want to feel young. So Balmain is pop, but it is a luxury brand as well. I don’t think you have to make sad, complicated clothes to show you have depth.