Balmain RTW Fall 2023 – WWD

Europe’s historic fashion houses are leaning into heritage this season, and Balmain is no exception. Olivier Rousteing has been unearthing the history of Balmain over the past few years, notably bringing to the surface a maze monogram which, alongside knitwear and its heavily embellished cocktail wear, has quickly become a strong franchise for the house.

For Fall 2023, Rousteing dug almost back to the beginnings of Pierre Balmain, which launched in 1945 with his New French style, also focusing on the founder’s 1953 slim-waisted Jolie Madame silhouette, even providing stock photos and press releases ready, who were packed with wisdom of the couturier.

Taking a break from wide pagoda shoulders and freaky Frankenstein boots, although he still wears them himself, the designer interpreted more demure mid-century silhouettes with a deft hand.

He added his own flourishes — chopping off the shoulders of a Jolie Madame jacket to create a sculptural corset, and he completed many looks with pants, either shoe-swallowing bell-bottoms, like the ones he wore backstage, or velvet capris . There have also been Dior-esque circle skirts that have popped up on many catwalks this season, even from so-called offbeat designers.

This Balmain show was a civilized affair, with free-flowing champagne, plush bench seating, a maximum of 250 guests and Frank Sinatra singing – a far cry from recent stadium extravaganzas with musical performers, mojitos in plastic cups and over-the-top creations visible from the nose-bleeding seats .

“Intimacy,” Rousteing said, citing a desire to tone down the fireworks surrounding fashion to focus on “the quality of the clothes” and timelessness. “So this is a tribute to Paris,” he said, leading a visitor backstage past the models and pointing out the little capes, the moiré patterns, the bows, and other “codes of the house.”

Rousteing commissioned Stephen Jones to create the hats, interpretations of the founder’s most famous couture toppers. This reinforced the historical look of the silhouettes, and not always in the best way.

But seeing the clothes up close heightened one’s appreciation for the atelier’s skills and the quieter end of Rousteing’s design expression – the way a crystal mini dress was reduced to a large fan of ruffles; the way he haphazardly sprinkled polka dots on silk pieces or beads on cozy knitwear and a flared velvet coat.

Humorous accessories – a tool box with PB logo for denim blouse and jeans with bow; a bag in the form of a camera for a velvet ensemble with a beret – added moments of lightness and sly humor.

A holdover from his one-off couture collection for Gaultier last July, the molded bustiers with their padded hips and tapered breasts exuded a Jean Paul Gaultier scent. “Gaultier is part of my story now,” he shrugged. “I learned so much from the craftsmanship there.”

A case in point was the almost-sheer, minimalist cape that closed the show, made of faceted crystals strung together like a couture take on a beaded curtain. It was really amazing. Balmain RTW Fall 2023 – WWD

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