The Balmain Army is marching into couture! Olivier Rousteing announced plans for the French fashion house to return to the Couture Week calendar recently at the WWD Retail & Apparel CEO Summit.
As WWD reports, Rousteing is “looking to bring back the Parisian DNA” to the Balmain brand with a foray back into the haute couture world. Marking the creative director’s first stint as a couturier, Balmain plans to show at Paris Couture Week in January 2019. This will be the fashion house’s first couture collection in 16 years.
The 72-year old fashion house, which was founded by Pierre Balmain, stopped showing bi-annual couture collections in 2002, when Oscar de la Renta ended his 9-year tenure as creative director, and was succeeded by Christophe Decarnin, who joined the house in 2005, helping shape the wildly expensive short-and-tight, heavily-distressed, rocker-chic aesthetic that still endures at Balmain.
Along with couture, Rousteing added that he wanted Balmain to delve into accessories, fragrance, and cosmetics in the future as well. Since his appointment as creative director in 2011, Rousteing has ushered in a new era of Balmain—one complete with A-list celebrities, model squads, and brand collaborations.
Recently, the creative director has experimented with some more affordable partnerships for the fashion house. In 2015, Rousteing spearheaded a Balmain collaboration with H&M which sold out instantly, becoming one of the retailer’s most-wanted designer collections.
Last year, the brand also collaborated with Victoria’s Secret on a capsule collection for the lingerie brand’s annual runway show. The collection, which was available to shop online immediately after the show aired on TV, marked the first time Victoria’s Secret teamed up with a luxury fashion brand.
Balmain’s return to couture also comes at an interesting time in terms of the market for hand-crafted one-of-a-kind garments and accessories. The number of couture buyers pales in comparison to decades gone by; according to Paris Vogue, “At its peak, following Christian Dior’s 1947 New Look, the number of haute-couture clients in the world was approximately 20,000. Today, that group is closer to 4,000.”
However, the “buying capacity [of the new couture client] is formidable.” The modern couture buyer’s profile is also quite a bit different that the women that came before her. In fact, some of the world’s most avid couture consumers are younger and more diverse than ever before.
While much of Rousteing’s work has helped Balmain reach a younger audience and become more accessible, it will be interesting to see how he navigates the opposite end of the design spectrum.