On a trip to Paris, we invited Lifestyle Inquirer contributing editor Wendy Puyat and fashion entrepreneur Jess Kendell to be the muses for our Balmain shoot. We are celebrating a lot this year despite everything else that’s happening. As they donned the best of Balmain Resort 2022, the words of Olivier Rousteing rang true.
Of the collection, the creative director writes:
Pierre Balmain’s legacy has been very much on my mind lately. That’s no surprise, of course, given that we recently marked the 75th anniversary of Monsieur Balmain’s first presentation— a collection that was filled with such a surprisingly fresh and feminine spirit that Alice B Toklas perfectly summed it up as the introduction of an entirely “New French Style.”
During our recent many lockdowns, those reflections on Balmain anniversaries, histories and origins often merged with new thoughts about recent discoveries about my own personal heritage. For the soon-to-premiere-on-Netflix documentary “Wonder Boy,” cameras had closely followed me for many months, as I searched for answers that had long eluded me— information about my own origins and the histories of my birth parents.
That search has helped me to grow to understand that I am the product of numerous strands and histories. I contain multitudes: the orphan adopted by the loving parents in Bordeaux, the passionate fan of the films, series and music of my youth, the designer devoted to the transformative power of couture, the vrai parisien—and, now, I have learned that I am also an African.
But during my lifelong search for answers, it has always been very clear to me that what’s important is not what’s in my blood, but what’s in my heart. To be French is not simply an inheritance—it is an embrace of the stirring ideals of this Republic. And this is a land that has long welcomed immigrants eager to adopt those same values. Because of that long history, there are so many possibilities that others would assure me that “I was probably a part of”—
so, from schooldays until recently, I sometimes allowed myself to be convinced that my heritage could be ultimately traced to the Caribbean, the Maghreb, Central Africa… and many other lands from a long list of possibilities. These questions and hypotheses were, ultimately, an incredible gift—allowing me to be constantly aware of and curious to learn more about the many beautiful contributions helping to shape this continually evolving country.
Paris, in particular, has always been open to the world. What Josephine Baker’s J’ai deux amours made exquisitely clear 90 years ago remains true—this city will always offer a unique and inspiring home to those in search of new possibilities. And today’s Paris looks well beyond the concrete limits of its Périphérique —our new, open, and multicultural Paris is, without any question at all, fashion’s vibrant global capital, where we celebrate the unique beauty and contribution of every Parisian, whatever might be their origin. This is the Paris I love so much. This is my home and this is the spirit of today’s Balmain.
Pierre Balmain’s New French Style wowed the world. Its audacious and daring spirit helped establish this house’s firm foundations, upon which I attempt to build, year after year, collection after collection. During my time here, I have become increasingly aware that in addition to continuing the story of this house’s impressive DNA, I am also adding a distinctive and modern new New French Style to the mix—one that reflects my personal journey as much as that of the global, inclusive and transformed 21st-Century France and Paris where I live today.
The beauty, possibilities and traditions of each and every one of those distinct strands that I hold within myself are especially evident throughout this collection, helping make this perhaps my most personal offering to date, while it remains quintessentially Balmain:
- Many of the collection’s beautiful patterns, embellishments and relaxed silhouettes look to the richness of the arts and traditions of the lands that I now know were those of my birth father and mother—and me. I was inspired by the Horn of Africa’s rich heritage of beautiful weavings, mesmerizing patterns and jeweled embroideries—artisan traditions that illustrate how this region melds together the contributions of many cultures and influences.
- As always, my respect for incredible power of Balmain’s heritage is front and center—which can be seen, for example, in this season’s multiple plays Monsieur Balmain’s chameleon-like, 50-year-old Labyrinth Pattern/
- My dedication to the type of couture craftsmanship that is only possible in Paris is made very clear in our atelier’s impeccable tailoring and many impressive embellishments.
- Throughout, as you’d expect, we play on the many possibilities of Balmain’s easily recognized signatures—with new riffs on the house’s marinière, bold graphics, modern smokings, military styles and our classic six-button blazer.
- The relaxed silhouette of my own daily uniform is reflected in this collection’s distinctive SoCal-meets-Ibiza vibe, pairing takes on Laurel Canyon ‘70s chic with the dolce far niente mood of lazy summers on Mediterranean isles
- Like everyone else, during our many lockdowns, I turned to old-favorites for some nostalgic comfort—and as their hits played on a loop in the background, the styles of those singers that I adored back in the day were very much in my mind as I sketched—which means that it not all that hard to spot references to the distinctive fashion and proportions of my youth.
Overall, this new collection is marked by a distinctive attitude of relaxed nonchalance. Borders are blurred as new possibilities are celebrated. That fresh and open outlook is perhaps reflected most clearly in this season’s legitimately unisex spirit. Almost every one of these designs adapt perfectly to whomever selects to wear them—which is another attribute of our new open and evolving era, another characteristic of this new and inclusive New French Style.
Balmain. G/F, The Shoppes at Solaire, Sky Tower I, Aseana Avenue, Entertainment City Paranaque, 1701. +63 968 729 2067. Email: [email protected]
Wendy Puyat and Jess Kendell photos by Maguelone Calmels