Olivier Rousteing Revisits Balmain’s Roots for FW23 Menswear
The FW23 Menswear Collection from Balmain is a blend of traditional sixties silhouettes with gender-blurring ornamentation
For his Fall 2023 Menswear collection, Olivier Rousteing has gone back to the sixties, revisiting the first years that Pierre Balmain began presenting menswear collections alongside his womenswear offerings. As Rousteing started creating the collection, he was passionate about uncovering the overflowing archives of Balmain, which allowed him to build upon the collections of the mid-60’s that were ultimately inspired by the sleek and sophisticated styles of the Saint Germain jazz artists. The collection shares a similar sentiment to the womenswear runway this season, which is in ways a reflection of Monsieur Balmain’s fearlessness in incorporating his womenswear design intricacies into his menswear collections.
“I remember the moment as though it were yesterday,” shares Rousteing on revisiting the fashion house’s archive. “It’s fourteen years ago, and I am completely blown away as I’m introduced to our archive’s vast collection of sketches, press clippings, videos and creations for the first time. I finally understand what I had been repeatedly told while interviewing for my first position at Balmain: that this house was a “sleeping giant,” resting upon a treasure trove of long-forgotten riches.”
For Rousteing, this deep dive into the vaults of Balmain has certainly paid off. The tailoring has been executed quite sharply, with trim silhouettes elongating the body. Trousers have been made to either hang straight down along the leg or for the more extravagant wearer, pooling out at the bottom in an invigorating flare. Suit jacket lapels have been enlarged in size, shirt collars are large and sharp, and oversized buttons adorn jackets in a sensible stylistic flair. It’s invigorating to see some of the womenswear silhouettes reflected in a range of the garments; including cropped tweed jackets, oversized wool capes, tightly cinched waists of leather trench coats, and velvet suits that have been elaborately embellished with rhinestones.
Rousteing has also looked to the tradition of Parisian couture in the creation of the collection, noting that for the couture artisans of the city, a garment becomes just as important as an infant, with seamstresses putting in massive efforts just to bring a single garment to fruition. “This city’s couture tradition of unmatched dedication to artisanal savoir-faire is what made Pierre Balmain’s pivotal post-war collections possible,” explains Rousteing. “Today, it’s what allows me to explore and expand upon the obsession that I share with our founder for the precise, impeccable Parisian tailoring and construction that have helped to set apart this week’s two Balmain collections.
It is evident in this vision of menswear at Balmain that a field trip to the archives was a successful vault of inspiration. Rousteing has kept his signature sharp lines, yet his modernity has been softened just a touch by the introduction of sixties inspiration. The collection is an exercise in refinement, yet it does not lose the bits of glitz and glam that have become synonymous with Rousteing’s direction for the storied French house. In a way, Rousteing’s embrace of the house’s tradition has given him a more viable look into the future of menswear, which he sees as a refined and ornate look that is closely tied to his womenswear collections.