Paris Fashion Week: Balmain Review

Balmain’s new energy

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Positively vibrating with energy, Led Zeppelin blasting through the sound system and models – more like sexy storm troopers straight out of Xanadu, the cult 1970s sci-fi flick – marching swiftly out, Balmain issued what Olivier Rousteing called his ‘joyful’ collection.
‘From the grey of Paris, into the sun, I wanted this to be joyful, in these dark days of recession,’ he said of his ultra clear message, full of spirit. He’d been looking at the history of French fashion and in particular those venerable French couturiers like Paul Poiret, active at the turn of the last century, whose sweeping ‘Cunfucius’ coat with its innovative kimono-style cut, appeared to have been the influence behind his draping.
Cut here, however, in searing pink, violet, sapphire or vivid green, and hanging from the world’s most pronounced shoulders. The Balmain shoulderline is now such a thing of wonder – severely ledge-like – and incorporated into almost every one of Rousteing’s designs. ‘But the shoulder is not the most important thing,’ he was keen to point out. ‘It’s about playing with the shapes around it that matters.’
This being Balmain, everything was lavishly decorated. Satin jackets came quilted, punctured with crystal in the manner of the most opulent Chesterfield sofa, then jewelled and sometimes embroidered with silky cord. Skirts in shiny satin were draped like magnificent curtains and slit to the hip bone revealing super-thigh-high suede, skin-hugging boots. Everything came cinched at the waist with wide belts that were ridged with gold, the better to show off those power shoulders that were sometimes clad in purple angora.
Despite its origins, it all felt deeply modern, including the non-bejewelled pieces – yes, they were there too: the occasional sparkling black tweed oversized jacket or a nipped-waist liquorice leather jacket, or the striking black satin coat, belted in gold.
This was as focused as it was flash, as full of potent dynamism as it was heaped with irony. And judging by the hoots of applause, enjoyed by all.
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