It’s not usual for a Parisian fashion house to put a 25-year-old at its helm, but that’s what Balmain did in 2011 when Olivier Rousteing, then 25, became the creative director. Fast forward 12 years, and Balmain is a completely different brand with a unique identity in the fashion world, all thanks to the imagination of the designer.
It’s not like Balmain wasn’t a recognizable name before he took over. However, today it’s a celebrated brand with powerful celebrity and influencer clientele, flaunting Rousteing’s signature silhouettes on Instagram posts and stories. Cinched waists with wide belts, broad padded shoulders, cutout dresses, and heavily embroidered jackets dominate the Rousteing aesthetic, which hides subtle reminders of a young Gianni Versace.
Brand Growth and Personal Popularity
If we’re talking numbers, there’s been a lot of growth for the brand. Even though the company does not publicly release sales revenue, experts believe the revenue has seen double-digit growth since Rousteing took creative control.
Pop culture has been an important influence for the designer, who is known to be social both on and off-camera. Although known globally now through Balmain, at home, he’s one of the most followed designers. There’s even a documentary about him, focusing mostly on a personal tragedy, on Netflix.
It doesn’t take one long to realize that both his own popularity and the brand’s growth have been growing hand-in-hand. Presenting the person behind the collections to the world has been a recipe for success for many other brands as well. For instance, Alessandro Michele and Jacquemus have had a similar trajectory.
Betting on Digital
One of the key ways Rousteing changed Balmain is that he rallied in a digital transformation. Like most millennials, he knew the power of digital platforms and social media. He knew that fashion overall was going digital, and that was the only way forward.
The Balmain social media, paired with his own account, created this new ecosystem for the brand filled with racy magazine spreads, celebrity cameos, and the designer’s own pictures. It’s what people wanted, and it’s what people got.
He also aligned the brand, in terms of products and designs, with where the industry was going. For instance, like many other Parisian brands, Balmain also ventured into the luxury sneaker section of fashion, creating some of the most cutting-edge designs we have ever seen. Yet, he managed to maintain that unique wow factor despite following industry trends.
With shoots featuring Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, and Kanye West, he leveraged star power to bring Balmain into the spotlight. He coined the term ‘Balmain Army’ for Balmain models, celebrity friends, and fans. Inclusivity is also an important aspect of fashion for him, as he’s a person of colour himself.
A Change to Be Reckoned With
Balmain’s rise to the top ranks of fashion on the shoulders of its young creative head is an example for other elite luxury brands. It was the best move on the brand’s part, choosing a designer who was not only familiar with the current trends but knew how to create them in the first place.