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The high-profile houses that have been around for decades have a conundrum on there hands. How do they keep with their storied legacies while keeping up with the times? It's an issue many have experienced. As the walls between the fashion elite and regular folk break down, brands have to appeal to a larger audience at a faster pace than ever to make more money. At this point, whoever shows up in front of the most people is the one that will surely succeed. The Atlantic applied this rubric specifically to Balmain, a house that has been around since the '40s and has become a different animal in fashion thanks to its wunderkind creative director Olivier Rousteing.
The sentence that sums it all up: "Balmain became known for dressing the prim and proper 'Jolie Madame' of Paris. By contrast, neither shy nor modest, Rousteing has become an Internet star, and his collections have garnered more attention for the celebrities wearing them than for 'freshness' or 'excellent taste.'"
Part of this is due to the fact that Pierre Balmain never really reached the heights of, say, a Christian Dior when it came to being a household name. When he passed in 1982, the series of creative directors afterward had to figure out how to carry on his life's work and creating their own. Notable names who took over, like Oscar De La Renta and Christophe Decarnin, took opposite approaches in attempting to achieve this and now, Rousteing hasn't really channeled the glamorous Balmain history into the brand's designs aside from his admission that he is "inspired by the house’s tradition of handcrafted detail and sharp tailoring." This growth and evolution of Balmain shows just how different the current day brand is from its genesis.
History and tradition can be a touchy subject when it comes to fashion, but houses and brands with creative directors who follow in the footsteps of the brand's namesake will always have trouble channeling legacy. We've touched on it before, but it's worth mentioning again. People don't buy clothes from high-end luxury brands because of who founded them. They're buying because they like what the current creative director is doing. People who wore Balmain 40 years ago probably balk at Rousteing's current version, assuming they're even paying attention at all. The same definitely goes for Hedi Slimane's Saint Laurent and plenty of others. And that's fine. As legendary houses with notable names hope to continue on into perpetuity making more and more money, they won't always be able to call on the founder's designs and inspirations for that. They should embrace the current and the person they've entrusted with the identity of the brand and let them grow. Rousteing may create vile designs in your opinion, but he's definitely seized the moment.