The first rule of Balmain – one which is highlighted during the winter months, and which holds to founder Pierre Balmain’s architectural aesthetic: symbiosis. Current creative lead Olivier Rousteing expounds this mandate in creations whose consolidating and containing qualities (necessary traits of all good design) overpower the expressive ones.
Roustein seeks consolidation of a highly sensualised form through symmetrical shapes (both in dress design and in adornment) as found in nature and reproduced (naturally) in design generally and his designs.
This is the role of a young designer working for and interpreting the legacy of an established label. But rather than use the platform to emphasize and expand the principles, he consolidates into ever more concentrated version of the ideal: the confinement of the female form within these natural devices with the wearers’ role one of service to them.
This form of objectification creates – it could be argued – a regression of feminist values into diverse but highly specific and commodified (by the designer) simulcra. In other words, you’re not really yourself when you wear a Balmain, you’re a Balmain.
Alternately it could argued that by focusing on such a highly conceptualised and fully realised form of beauty, the wearer is made beautiful, or that only the beautiful can wear them. Rousteing values beauty above all else and – regardless of what that does to the subject – it’s probably worth the cost.