Air Travel Inspired Olivier Rousteing’s Fall 2021 Balmain Collection

March 9, 2021

In journalism, it’s known as burying your lede. At the end of a preview in which Olivier Rousteing spent more than 30 minutes exalting the delights of air travel, how it inspired his fall Balmain collection and the film shoot in and around Air France’s biggest jetliners, hangars and engine-testing laboratories, the designer casually mentioned that he’s afraid of flying.

That hasn’t stopped him from racking up frequent-flyer points, and from considering flying a “moment of prestige” and dressing smartly in a double-breasted blazer for every plane trip.

Indeed, the air-travel theme energized the already energetic young designer, who depicts the finale looks treading a glowing runway suspended in front of the moon, a special-effect trick realized using the largest LED screen in Europe. The designer is totally game for doing a runway show on another planet some day, technology allowing. “Earth is not enough,” he said with a grin.

Rousteing has lately been diving into the archive of Pierre Balmain, and was tickled to learn that shortly after the founder established his couture house in 1945, he took to the skies to promote Parisian fashions, touching down in the U.S., England and even Australia, dazzling everyone with his fluent English. Rousteing was struck by the glamour of air travel, and the chic of Balmain’s clients, in the mid-century period.

He riffed on that, but also on pioneering female pilots and astronauts. His penchant for boldness is exemplified by the many full-on silver lame outfits and a quilted army-green cardigan sparkling with 68,000 upcycled Swarovski crystals.

But this was also one of Rousteing’s more grounded and approachable collections, with a bigger focus on daywear: grand tailored coats with rows of gold buttons, meaty shearling vests and bomber jackets, plus lots of roomy pants in khaki green for him and her. He didn’t abandon his beloved nautical stripes, here supersized for terrific sweater dressing, and he kept neon accents and seriously sexy parachute dresses for attention seekers.

Rousteing confessed straightaway he doesn’t travel light, and he’s done his own versions of the hard-sided cases and hat carriers he found in the archives. There was also a host of fun and lighthearted smaller accessories, from his luxed-up version of astronaut boots to a hobo handbag modeled after a neck pillow. He plucked one off the shelf in the showroom, plopped it over his head and feigned sleep.

Rousteing noted that Air France planned to broadcast the show on all its intercontinental flights at the same time as the livestream, and add to its AV catalogue. “I like the idea of Balmain in the sky,” he said dreamily.

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