Olivier Rousteing Went Up In The Air—And Out Of This World!— For Balmain Fall ’21

by Aaron Royce

The #BalmainArmy is airborne! Travel’s clearly been on the brain for creative director Olivier Rousteing, who released Balmain’s Fall Winter 2021 collection in a Valentin Petit-directed video this afternoon. After nine years at the helm of the French house, Rousteing’s reinvention of Balmain’s militaristic uniform-meets-high fashion ready to wear is constantly changing—and today’s presentation showed its latest iteration.

The first part of the fashion show was shot on an airplane—and no, not in its interior; on the actual wing of a docked plane. Models in billowing ruched dresses, chunky boots, leather jackets, and pocket-covered trousers stormed the makeshift runway in tones of olive and black. This first part of the show wasn’t just monochromatic (though monochrome olive and shades of green were the most common); it also contained pops of neon yellow and sparkly olive through waffle puffer tops and dresses, plus numerous bags embossed with Balmain’s geometric monogram—first seen in the brand’s Spring 2021 collection. It was truly a merging of models and militia; a literal take on Rousteing’s “Balmain Army,” if you will.

With a flip of the camera, viewers went from the plane’s wings to the tarmac beneath it, where models appeared as sharply-dressed passengers. Olive and neon green tones popped up, but were replaced as a primary colors by black, navy and tomato red. Striped knits, chunky earrings, flowing coats, and a range of satchels, slim totes, trunks, and puffy shoulder bags—some monogrammed, others colored to match their respective outfits—made for an extremely stylish set of passengers. Some aspects of the flight theme were shown very literally, through pieces like compass pouch necklaces or an embossed neck pillow necklace. Others, like wide-legged pants, angular sunglasses, and sharp-shouldered jackets, were simply pieces we can only dream of rocking at the airport.

 

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A rocket hangar served as the show’s third act setting, the cast dressed in extremely militaristic outfits. Metallic silver reigned during this part of the show, coating wide-lapeled jackets, knits, and jumpsuits. This was also the moment in the collection where Rousteing showed one of his key signatures at Balmain: a combination of weaving mixed materials together in geometric shapes, utilizing elements like lacing and grommets. These lines twisted in hues of neon yellow and traffic cone orange across cropped jackets and sharp-shouldered minidresses, as well as a range of men’s outerwear pieces. Yet again, a literal interpretation of the aviation theme emerged through a bag shaped like a massive paper airplane.

The buildup served as a preface for the finale, which took place in outer space —or at least, Rousteing’s version of an out-of-this-world fashion show. Colors from every part of the collection—olive, black, yellow, orange, red, silver—were everywhere on the circular light runway, with new additions of hot pink and icy blue. Womenswear was all business, as most models donned broad-shouldered suiting reminiscent of 80’s power dressing. Meanwhile, mens’ bombers, pocket-coated  jackets, and cargo pants looked like the perfect ensembles for off-duty astronauts. With their futuristic and space-inspired garments, many looked prepared to stroll off the runway and take a giant step on the moon (which happened to be nearby). Literal embodiments of this theme also made appearances; a silver and orange men’s jumpsuit looked like a lightweight astronaut’s suit, while the paper airplane motif reappeared as a clutch and a luggage charm.

For the upcoming fall season, Rousteing appears to be pursuing rapid growth for Balmain’s future. After all, going from the airport to outer space is a big transition. The collection made excellent use of his many Balmain signatures, while continuing new developments like the brand’s retro monogram. Still, he broke new ground with more plays on textures, as well as numerous bag styles (a particular standout in all acts was a structural tote, accented on the outside with soft pouches) that combined utilitarian and modern aesthetics. It’s clear there’s a push for brand expansion, but also a reliance on particular staples; that much was obvious from the multiple color ways of shoes, bags, and jewelry across the collection’s four stages.

However, there were no soft clothes in sight; for the Balmain Army, athleisure is not part of one’s wardrobe. While taking his bow on the plane wing, Rousteing’s own outfit seemed to epitomize the underlying message: Balmain has staples (double-breasted blazers), but is consistently reinventing itself (slouchy trousers) and moving towards the future (sneakers with an extraordinarily chunky sole). Perhaps while he was staring into the camera, the designer was already dreaming up his Spring and Resort offerings for next year. Whatever the case, shifting from a plane to the moon may be one small step for man—but just one (not-so-giant giant) leap for Balmain.

See highlights from the collection below:

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