Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing has long been at the forefront of making campaigns and runways diverse. But in a recent Q&A with WWD the designer revealed that he initially ran into some difficulty when trying to cast different models when he started.
“When I started at Balmain eight years ago, no one was taking about diversity,” he began. “It was always shocking that I could not get girls of different diversities. Because the agencies didn’t have much diversity either. Different casting directors didn’t help either. So I decided to create my own story getting my own models of different shapes, ages and colors. For me, that was really important. It was not easy. Sometimes fashion is really avant-garde and people don’t understand that. Now everybody is talking about it. But it was really hard for me to introduce that.”
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Elsewhere in the conversation Rousteing discussed a different way of diversifying Balmain: making it available for everyone, regardless of income. While he understands that luxury inherently is only available to the rich, he has found ways to make the Balmain brand accessible through capsule collections and partnerships.
“I was doing collaborations so that people who dream of Balmain could get a piece of Balmain. From the different types of muses I have in my campaign like Rihanna and Kim [Kardashian], this was my way to invite young people to discover the brand and to be more inclusive,” he said. “When I did my collaboration with H&M, it automatically sold out in New York. That makes you realize that it’s not about clothes. It’s about talking to different kinds of continents and it’s an inclusive brand. I think this was my favorite collaboration because I could see that kids were loving my brand, loving the unity that I was creating.”