Balmain’s artistic director, Olivier Rousteing, is not just a designer – he’s something of a rock star, too. Throwing white roses in the air outside the venue after the spring/summer 2024 show at Paris fashion week he was greeted with screams and cheers from the crowd.
Flanked by models wearing the collection just shown on the catwalk inside the Théâtre National de la Danse on Wednesday night, Rousteing addressed the gathered throng, saying the show was “about love, it’s about Paris, it’s about France, it’s about the world, it’s about everybody here”.
This display and its “love is all” message could be seen as part of Rousteing’s fightback in the face of adversity. Less than 10 days before this show took place, it emerged that about 50 designs that were due to be included had been stolen, with a delivery driver’s van stolen by a group of people while en route from the airport in Paris to the Balmain studio.
On 17 September, Rousteing revealed the news on Instagram to his 9.8 million followers. Despite the setback, the artistic director was clear that the show would go on. “So many people worked so hard to make this collection,” he wrote. “We are redoing everything, but this is so so disrespectful. We won’t give up.”
Anyone watching the show on Wednesday would have judged it to be business as usual. Champagne circulated on trays beforehand, Cher, Jodie Turner-Smith and Kim Cattrall sat front row and the collection was all types of glamour, ranging from vinyl minidresses to 80s-style skirt suits, polka dot trouser suits and long pleated gowns. If it looked glossy and highly polished, that was the result of hard work.
“We will work more, days and nights, our suppliers will work days and nights as well,” Rousteing had written on Instagram. Balmain’s suppliers were able to remake 70% of the stolen pieces in time.
In the show notes for the collection, Rousteing revealed that the Paris police had recovered the stolen van and some of the boxes that had contained the clothes, by then empty. He paid tribute to his team and the people who offered support after news of the robbery. “You were exhausted already, but you found the strength needed to help ensure that a robbery would not affect our runway. Now, even more than before, I am filled with admiration for your talents and gratitude for your amazing spirit.”
Roses were a theme – featured on everything from a pair of cycling shorts and matching peplum to a corset-type design with thorned branches covering the model’s torso. The metaphor was not lost on Rousteing. “We see those thorns, but we’re concentrating on the roses, as we celebrate love, joy, and beauty,” he wrote.
Rousteing said the theft showed how “a big part of working in fashion is always trying to deal as best you can with unexpected setbacks”. He has arguably gone above and beyond expectations. In the 10 days since the incident, this show went off without a hitch – and Beyoncé wore a polka dot dress similar to the spring/summer 2024 designs while performing on her Renaissance tour in Houston. To paraphrase the star, life gave the artistic director lemons. He made fashion lemonade.