The Balmain show for Summer 2015 handed the sexual power over to women. More specifically, to one woman: Rihanna.
“I keep in my mind my generation, and I remember Rihanna walking out of the Crazy Horse at the after-party of my last show,” said Olivier Rousteing, Balmain’s designer.
“I wanted to explore ‘sexy’, see-through fabrics and to remember Madonna’s book Erotica,” said the designer, who believes that the internet proves that strong women — especially music stars— refuse to be bound by censorship.
So imagine either of the above-mentioned women (Rihanna now, Madonna in her heyday) sitting in the audience at this week’s Balmain show.
The two stars would certainly have seen some flesh.
On the runway were white or black grills of fabric, transparent plastic that revealed the skin beneath, cut-outs at the midriff, see-through black chiffon at the legs, hazard-yellow dresses with strategic gaps or onesies with rivulets of sparkling stripes.
Skin for skin, there cannot have been so much on display since Tom Ford’s London show. Significantly, and perhaps because of the generation gap between the two designers, the Balmain clothes went down the runway with a swagger and not a snigger from the audience.
The first protective layer to potential vulgarity is the Balmain ateliers, whose work is couture standard. A white dress that fell like a shower over the body, with just a stretch of firmer fabric across the bust, was a treasure. Those bands across the body, from a Parisian studio, look like graceful cover-ups, not bondage.
Then there was the tailoring: crisp in black and white stripes and checks, or a black, white and yellow pantsuit. Yes, it would take some guts to walk down the street in a top vertically striped with red, royal blue, canary yellow and white. But the woman who wears these clothes wants to be noticed. And she steps right into a limousine. Read: Kim Kardashian was front row.
Balmain may not be to everybody’s taste. But I would not describe these seductive clothes as ‘tasteless’. They had all the optimism of youth and an outrageous sense of fun.
Rousteing is certainly doing something right, for Balmain president Alain Hivelin said backstage that sales were up 25 per cent in the last quarter, and that such was the demand from buyers that they were turning away potential clients.
Olivier summed up his happy-go-lucky attitude when he described his feelings as Rihanna pulled all the attention at that after-party in her transparent Balmain top.
“Was I jealous?” He asked. “No, I was inspired.”