Kendall Jenner Isn't The Real Star Of Balmain For H&M; This Guy Is

You’d think the world would have hit total Balmain for H&M overload already, even though the clothes aren't arriving in stores for another few weeks. From the collaboration's very first cameo at the Billboard Music Awards five months ago to last week’s collection reveals (the leaked version, and then the official one that followed six days later), this is the designer collab that just keeps giving. We’ve flipped through the entire collection and devised a shopping game plan for the collection’s November 5 drop date. Now, if you need any guidance on what you’ll want to be doing in these clothes, look no further than the campaign video debuting soon, which stars #BalmainArmy stalwart Kendall Jenner backed by an amazing fleet of dancers vogueing on a moving train.

But Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing’s decision to incorporate vogueing into the campaign footage (and at tomorrow night’s private blowout party for the collab, rumor has it) isn’t solely for the spectacle, or to sell clothes. “I find vogueing very emotional and personal, because it is all about identity. So many Black kids who were rejected from their home have been able to find a family through vogueing,” Rousteing told Refinery29, of the LGBT youth who turned to the dance community when they were turned away by their own. “Even though vogueing is now world famous, if you go to the balls in New York today you’ll still find it is a place for kids with nowhere to go to find a community. That is why vogueing feels so real, because it’s an expression of who someone really is.”

As for the talent you’ll see teaching Jenner and crew how to move in the video: “I only wanted to work with the best, and the best at vogueing is Javier Ninja,” Rousting said. “When I saw him dancing, it just blew my mind. He has such an incredible knowledge of what he is able to do with his body, and it is incredible how he can show such emotion and strength in his gestures and poses.”
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Ninja (née: Javier Madrid) is a member of iconic House of Ninja, and trained under vogueing legend Willi Ninja. “It’s not just a gay dance — it’s a dance for everybody,” Ninja says, debunking a common misconception about the moves. “It doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight, or whatever; it’s just a form of self-expression through fashion.” Wondering what it has to do with Balmain for H&M? Consider this: “Vogueing is fashion dance, in and of itself, so to mix fashion and dance or dance with fashion — that is what vogueing is about,” Ninja says.

Ninja has danced in everything from music videos for the likes of Icona Pop and FKA Twigs to Madonna’s Super Bowl half time show in 2012, in addition to various fashion projects. “This was a whole different experience than other fashion shoots, which are usually in and out; for [Balmain for H&M], we had a couple days together. So we all bonded!” And, yes, Rousteing did indeed learn a few moves on the shoot. “Of course I taught him a little something! Yeah, he got it. Olivier was such a sweetheart; he’s very kind and has such a strong head on his shoulders as a young designer.”
The adoration sounds pretty mutual: “I was in heaven on the video shoot. I love my work so much, and all have my dreams have come true now that I am creative director of Balmain,” Rousteing says. “But when you meet people like Javier Ninja, it makes you think about the other fantasy lives that you could have led. Could you imagine being able to vogue like Javier Ninja?”

While Rousteing first heard about the dance style/LGBT subculture through Madonna’s “Vogue” music video (like many of us), he points to Malcolm McLaren’s “Deep In Vogue,” which features Javier Ninja’s mentor, Willi Ninja, and Paris is Burning, the iconic 1990 documentary about ball culture, as especially meaningful expressions of the art form. “I bet you will find that every single person who works in the fashion industry has watched Paris is Burning at least 10 times,” Rousteing says. “I believe in diversity in fashion, breaking down the boundaries and making it open to everyone. Why should fashion just be for the front row?”
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