Olivier Rousteing's list of accomplishments during his seven-year tenure (longer than many creative directors last at luxury houses these days) at Balmain so far is significant: He launched high-profile collaborations with H&M and Victoria's Secret, aligned himself with one of the world's most famous families, dominated Instagram, opened a Los Angeles flagship, launched childrenswear and debuted a beauty line with L'Oréal. While many of those achievements were geared towards building Balmain's profile and making it more accessible, his next move veers in a different, more bespoke direction.
Rousteing announced the news at WWD's Retail & Apparel CEO Summit Wednesday, saying he's "looking to bring back the Parisian DNA" by reviving couture, which Balmain hasn't shown since January 2003, shortly before the house filed for bankruptcy. He could be on the couture calendar as soon as next January, when houses like Chanel and Dior show their Spring 2019 collections. A rep for Balmain has not yet replied to our request for comment.
It may not be as much of a commercial move as some of the other initiatives he's been involved with at Balmain, but couture can be big business, too. Dior, for instance, has seen a significant boost from buying back its couture operations. And some say that the fastest-growing segment of couture clients is millennials, a generation whose attention Balmain has captured with many of the accomplishments listed above.
This news also isn't exactly out of the blue: In January, Balmain launched an eveningwear capsule called 44 François Premier, named after the Paris address of Pierre Balmain's original couture atelier. "As Balmain continues its impressive upward trajectory and the demand for this house's red carpet pieces grows, I find that — for one small part of our output, at least — I now have the luxury of focusing the spotlight solely on the unique heritage that Pierre Balmain left with us," said Rousteing at the time, adding: "Working on this collection is a bit of a palette cleanser for me — a chance to return to the beginnings of this house, with the single driving goal being that of creating unique and exquisite pieces, far removed from editorial and runway pressures."
With a full twice-yearly couture commitment, which 44 François Premier may have been a test for, Rousteing will have the opportunity to do plenty of that. Additionally, Rousteing said he wants to expand into accessories, fragrance and cosmetics. Hopefully, this all just adds up to bigger profits and not the creative burnout that plagues so many designers these days.