Ever since the reveal of the Balmain x H&M collaboration collection back at the Billboard Music Award's red carpet, there's been an incredible buzz around H&M's latest designer collection. Considering that the French house's creative director Olivier Rousteing is a favorite of everyone from J-Lo to the Kardashian-Jenner clan, there's a sincere hope that Balmain's lusted-after luxury designs will faithfully translate to the racks of the Swedish fast-fashion giant. Rousteing himself insisted that he "wouldn't have done this collaboration if [he] couldn't give [his] identity."
Thanks to a new profile on the designer and the upcoming collaboration in British GQ, we can finally get a peek into Rousteing's plans for the new collaboration.
For a bit of background, Pierre Balmain founded his namesake label in 1945, responding to post-war calls for glamour that designers like Christian Dior were providing with his "new look" silhouette. Dressing models and actors, the label thrived until Balmain's death in 1982, when the house's relevancy dimmed...at least until Rousteing was given the reins in 2011, hot on the heels of the opulent styles of ex-creative director Christophe Decarnin. For Rousteing's part, his extravagant designs aren't just an homage to Pierre Balmain's original vision, but catering to a new wave of celebrities who wear Balmain to stand out. As Kanye famously said, "rap is the new rock n' roll," and Rousteing's designs are seen on and inspired by this new wave of rockstars.
It's that opulent, rock n' roll mentality that Rousteing is aiming to bring to the high street with this H&M collaboration—giving us common folk a slice of the label's gaudy (and insanely high-priced) aesthetics. "It is traditional, but at the same time it's really pop and that's the weird mix that I love to create," Rousteing said of this designs.
He notes that when H&M came to him near the tail end of last year, he was excited at having H&M's global audience at full attention. "I still wear H&M and I just love its global nature and the vision it brings to the world. He continued, "I think it is great to mix my vision with their huge global platform."
But for a brand that's as extravagant as Balmain can be, Rousteing had his work cut out for him. It's not a simple task taking the brand's imbedded luxury and serving it on a global-scale...with an affordable price to boot. Regardless, Rousteing is confident he's found the perfect mix for this project.
"[H&M] wanted the luxury, they wanted the sharpness of the jackets. The challenge was to make it affordable, so we changed the fabrics and techniques. We did a little less embroidery. It was a compromise but we made certain the quality was still there. It wasn't easy for me and it wasn't easy for them, but I think we should be proud of the result. I know there are people that love Balmain but who can't afford it. Maybe they will never be able to afford it but now for once in their life they can have a piece of me."
H&M's head of design Ann-Sofie Johansson is equally thrilled with the collab. While this is only her second H&M designer collab (her first was with NYC wunderkind Alexander Wang), she's confident that H&M customers will be happy with what hits the racks.
"We set the bar pretty high to work with Balmain. We had never done anything so decorated before, and we weren't sure we would be able to pull it off. But our suppliers thought it was fun to do something so full-on and I think Olivier is really happy with the end result."