balmain's olivier rousteing on riri, gigi, kimye and selfies

"At the end of the day the front row is a small crowd and I'm happy to be talking to my one million Instagram followers," says the Balmain designer on the occasion of his London store opening.

by Stuart Brumfitt
17 March 2015, 2:50pm

Joining Marc by Marc Jacobs, Rick Owens and a posh old hunting store on Mayfair's South Audley Street is Olivier Rousteing's Balmain. The new London pied-a-terre is a chic, but cozy space to showcase his "pop culture" collections that will go down a treat with the capital's #balmainarmy. Last night his troops included supermodels Jourdan Dunn, Edie Campbell and Lily Donaldson, photographer Quentin Jones and singer Ellie Goulding. Before the celebrations kicked off, we caught up with Olivier to talk about muses, his love for London and the power of social media.

You love Rihanna and Kim. Is there a male equivalent?
I don't think there's an equivalent with men, because women are always stronger than men. No-one can compete with Kim or Ri. They are way stronger than any men in the world. They are the balls!

Do you have any new muses on the horizon?
To reach Kim and Ri is pretty hard, but I'm going out, so I'm meeting different women. For now though, I think Gigi is going to be a really strong girl. She is already. It's all about connections. People are like, "Is he a socialite?" I'm not a socialite. I'm just sharing nice moments. I shared some nice moments with Gigi at my party in Dubai.

This men's collection is very biker.
This one is more sporty and the next one is more night/evening. Kanye is always inspiring me, as well as different men; football players, Jay-Z, Harry and Peter Brant.

Photography Olivier Rousteing

What do you think of London?
The beauty of London is its diversity. My customers in London are so different. Versailles is inspiring, but it's more inspiring when Kim and Kanye do a wedding there. Paris needs something new to make it more beautiful. A journalist said, "Paris is a party, Olivier has the key." I love having the key to Paris, but I love welcoming people who are part of the world and can bring me a new Paris. I was calling Paris Fashion Week, "PaRih Fashion Week" after Rihanna. Rihanna makes sense in Paris, Kim makes sense in Paris and this makes Paris more beautiful.

It's true that when everyone comes to town for Fashion Week, things do get more exciting in Paris.
In the 70s, all these designers were bringing exoticism and new cultures with front rows like Iman and Bowie in Paris. I always worked to make fashion more pop. I think the 90s in fashion were really interesting. Remember all the Gianni Versace shows when there was Elton John, Prince and David Bowie there? That's what made me love fashion. That's what I'm doing with my Instagram. Fashion needs to have a different crowd than just the front row, because at the end of the day the front row is a small crowd and I'm happy to be talking to my one million Instagram followers.

What about your naked Tetu magazine cover? I can't imagine any other designer doing that.
Because they're old! Kind of! I'm not doing that at 50 or 60, but the reality is that today I can allow myself to do that. I think people just saw the sexy cover, but I think what's interesting is that I took care of all the direction of the magazine. I also wanted to get naked to show that Olivier Rousteing is Balmain, but Olivier Rousteing is also Olivier Rousteing on his own. It's important for me to be naked emotionally too, talking about my childhood, talking about my fears, talking about what makes me sad, what makes me happy. I'm really shy, so getting naked for a cover was important. You can still do luxury and be naked on the cover. I'm really proud of this cover.

Tell us about your Balmain Army.
I love strong women. Balmain today is showing the strength and power of the girls. They're secure, they're confident and that's what I love. Fashion needs to start thinking more about the girls on the catwalk than the clothes on the catwalk. That's why I have a good feeling with my models, because it's not just casting the cool girls of the season. That's why I have the Balmain Army.

And what about your London Balmain Army?
I think London is really showing diversity with strong women coming from all over the world. London is really the most international city in Europe, no doubt. London is a city of young designers, which you're not going to see in Paris. London is way more open-minded with speech, with freedom. If you like, London is the future.

Photograph courtesy Olivier Rousteing

Why do you love social media so much?
Social media is more natural and spontaneous. I have 1 million followers and I don't think any magazine is going to sell 1 million magazines in France. So I give access to my fashion in a different way. Social media is the new advertising and it's going away from the rules and the mafia of fashion. I don't pay for any of those followers. It's more natural and real.

Can you give us some selfie tips?
I suck my cheeks, I have a very good filter and I take 20 pictures before getting the right selfie.

How do you think you've changed as a designer since you started at Balmain?
I've evolved as a designer as much as I've evolved as a person. I think what I did four years ago, I wouldn't do again. I used to try to please too many people and I got a bit lost. Today I try to please my customers, my buyers and the press, but at the same time, pleasing myself is really important. Today I am into pop culture, into my age. I don't want to try be someone else. I'm really proud to have worked with Rihanna. It was the right moment. I know that sometimes for people it looks like controversy to get a pop culture for a luxury brand, but I feel that's the new world.

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