The Haute bourgeoisie look is for everyone, no matter the colour of their skin, or where they came from.
That was Olivier Rousteing’s potent fashion message at Balmain this season. At a time when the classist term “bourgeois,” with all its traditional associations of privilege and race, is being bandied about in fashion as if it were nothing more than a rising hemline, all while the divide between the haves and the have-nots is widening and people are protesting in the streets, it needed to be said.
And who better to say it then Rousteing, an African orphan adopted by French parents, whose upwardly mobile success story, still a rarity for France, is the subject of “Wonder Boy,” nominated for the best documentary film award at the Cesar Awards Friday night.
A decade into his role at Balmain, Rousteing has positioned himself as the voice of the new bourgeoisie. Like Bronx-born Ralph Lauren, nee Lifshitz, Rousteing reclaimed the code of dress he felt excluded him when he was growing up in Bordeaux, “when as a kid going horse riding, people looked at me like, ‘What are you doing here?’” And then, he served it up on the runway for all.
Maybe you don’t have the kind of dough to buy a densely embroidered stallion motif cape, but you can buy a Kylie x Balmain lipstick.
And so this collection was an exercise in subtlety if you can say that about a house that rose to recent prominence on bedazzled, linebacker size shoulders. Working in a thousand shades of beige, Rousteing worked a story of blanket ponchos, assertive tailoring, scarfy silk shirts and pants, and luxe leather dressing. And it looked good.