Olivier Rousteing is not one for whispers. His Fall/Winter 2024 Balmain show, which marked his triumphant return to a full menswear presentation after a pandemic hiatus, was a riotous declaration of that very ethos. “Luxury has many meanings,” he proclaimed, “and this screams luxury.” And it screamed, in a symphony of bold colors, extravagant embellishments and tailoring so sharp it could cut diamonds.
From the first look-an AI-generated face plastered over a crystalline topcoat-the message was clear: this was going to be extravagant, intricate, and impossible to ignore. Never one to shy away from self-referential humor, Rousteing took the jabs at his signature pout and turned it into a runway motif. Lip-shaped cummerbunds, brooches and prints adorned everything from jacquard suits to bombers and shirts, a playful riposte to the fashion peanut gallery.
But Rousteing’s maximalism wasn’t just about extravagant showmanship. This collection hummed with a deeper purpose, a celebration of individuality and cultural homage. After a vibrant polka dot section, the runway erupted with a tribute to the Sapeurs, the legendary sartorial warriors of the Congo. Their bold, high-waisted silhouettes and electrifying color combinations were reinterpreted with Balmain’s signature precision, each look a testament to their extravagant defiance.
This spirit of cross-cultural exchange continued with collaborations that went beyond mere trend-hunting. Ghanaian artist Prince Gyasi’s captivating prints leapt from canvas to silk, transforming into wearable art masterpieces. Cameroonian artist Ibby Njoya’s whimsical trunks and suitcases became coveted accessories, each imbued with a unique artistic flair.
But amid the riot of color and playful motifs, Rousteing didn’t forget his tailoring skills. An inverted tulip-hemmed coat, its layers of white cashmere meticulously sculpted into an eye, was a testament to his impeccable craftsmanship. A gold-toned finale – a shimmering coat, shimmering face sculptures, and Naomi Campbell draped in a surrealist belt holding a golden bouquet – cemented the collection’s opulent grandeur.
As Rousteing himself noted, Balmain has thrived under his reign, transforming from a niche label to a powerhouse. “So I’m not going to go quietly now,” he declared. And why should he? Fall/Winter 2024 was a masterclass in unapologetic self-expression, a defiant celebration of luxury that rewrote the rules and embraced the audacity to be seen. It was a collection that pulsated with life, daring and an infectious joie de vivre, reminding us that sometimes the loudest whispers are the ones that truly resonate.