Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing: Phresh Out the Runway
“Sometimes you forget that your passion can also be your work.”
As happy as he was at Cavalli, Rousteing was drawn to Paris—and, in particular, to Balmain, where Christophe Decarnin’s crystal-encrusted designs were causing a worldwide frenzy, aptly referred to as Balmainia. “I loved what he was doing,” Rousteing says. “It was more my taste than Cavalli.” He sent his CV, was hired instantly, and spent more than two and a half years working beside Decarnin, until 2011, when Decarnin exited the house after rumors he’d had a nervous breakdown. “That was a stressful time,” Rousteing recalls.
“Christophe left. Emmanuelle Alt [the editor in chief of Vogue Paris, who was then the house’s stylist] left, too. I was 25 and managing the whole studio.” The thought of taking over hadn’t even crossed his mind when in April of that year he received a call, while on vacation in Barcelona, from Balmain chairman Alain Hi-velin, who offered him the position. Knowing he had the support of the design team, Rousteing said yes, thus becoming one of the youngest talents to preside over an established Parisian fashion house since Yves Saint Laurent found himself, at age 21, the head designer at Christian Dior.