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Olivier Rousteing Presents a (Slightly) More Relaxed Interpretation of Balmain Signatures for Spring 2021

Think strong-shouldered blazers, but styled with bike shorts.

This may be an unprecedented Paris Fashion Week, but Olivier Rousteing returned to the runway format for Balmain's Spring 2021 debut on Wednesday. However, it wasn't, strictly speaking, a typical Balmain show. 

Firstly, as many celebrities, stylists and other "friends of the brand" couldn't travel to sit front row, the French fashion house displayed live video feeds of the would-be guests watching the show on LG screens across the first three (empty) rows of one side of the runway. This portion of the event, the designer explained in the show notes, was called "Community."

Then, at the top of the presentation, Rousteing himself came out and sat on a lone chair at the end of the runway, watching as six older models came out wearing black, white and grey printed ensembles. These looks were actually plucked from Balmain's archives, designed by Pierre Balmain himself mid-century and updated by Rousteing's team with the recently relaunched PB maze pattern. And the women showcasing them had all walked salon-style presentations in the past, hence why they were tapped for this salon-style tribute. This was dubbed "Heritage." 

As Rousteing and the women made their way backstage, an electronic soundtrack began blasting and models emerged wearing the Spring 2021 collection. Head-to-toe neon ensembles accented by strong, pointed shoulders made way for grey suiting with strong, pointed shoulders (a recurring theme). The silhouettes progressively relaxed as the show went on — trousers were followed by bike shorts, oversized jackets by draped wrap blouses. "After spending so many months working from home, seated at our kitchen tables during conference calls, it's not so all that surprising to see a silhouette that includes a tailored DB jacket paired with biker's shorts, is it?," Rousteing reasoned, in the notes. 

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This more relaxed interpretation of Balmain signatures also includes denim paired with Swarovski-embellished tops, with sharp blazers and with oversized knit vests. The aforementioned PB pattern features heavily in the collection as well, on apparel as well as accessories. And because this is Rousteing's Balmain — and because the theme for the season is "Optimism" — a selection of sparkly, party-ready dresses closed the show. 

"Perhaps my optimism is a reflection of my own personal history — after all, it was not too long ago that someone like me was never meant to end up in the position that I occupy today," Rousteing wrote, in the notes, reflecting on not just the brand founder's legacy but also the difficult circumstances leading up to the brand's Paris Fashion Week presentation. "Change happens. Advancements may require determined engagement, but progress is always possible." 

See all the looks in Balmain's Spring 2021 collection, below.

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