If you’re looking for subtle, understated luxury fashion, then perhaps the Balmain show isn't for you. On Thursday afternoon, creative director Olivier Rousteing served up his signature maximalist, hyper-embellished, multi-textured vision on a diverse army of strong women at his usual venue, the Hôtel Potocki in Paris. But for fall 2017, Balmain was inspired by an unexpected source – namely '90s band Nirvana – as well as rebellion and road-tripping.
Rousteing explained in the show notes: "I was just a kid during Nirvana’s heyday, but their powerful music of rebellion definitely marked me then – and continues to resonate with me today. Those liberating lyrics advised us to ignore guidelines of what’s expected and remain true to ourselves. It’s that same mindset that propels today’s strong women as they march down the runway. They’ve embarked on the perfect road trip, picking up influence while traveling across the globe’s most awe-inspiring landscapes – the Serengeti, the Far West, Amazonia."
The collection was certainly a whistle-stop tour of the world via the animals that roam across each continent – there were tiger-print dresses, zebra leggings, wolves on T-shirts, snakeskin thigh-high boots, fur jackets, cowhide, colorful feathers, and dresses embellished with glittering beaded birds. As the lights came up to the sound of Nirvana’s cult classic "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Gigi Hadid opened the show in a brown-toned beaded fringe skirt, eyelet-studded belt, and tie-dye T-shirt with a bold gold lip cuff. Despite the rock-focused soundtrack, which also included Aerosmith's "Dream On," the handful of T-shirts were the only vague indication of a grungy Nirvana influence – the essence of rebellion was more a feeling than actually manifest in the clothing.
And it was those T-shirts that we can't un-see. For those of us who grew up watching our dads jam out to those exact bands in those exact T-shirts, the nostalgic moment was just all too real; we suppose the only other time we can think of anything similar to the wolf tees coming back from the dead might have been Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover (though, that version was paired with a leather man bag, unlike Rousteing's chain bags that models seemed to carry instead of actually wearing them).
The earth-toned collection varied in shades of brown, tan, gold, and orange, and featured intricate patterns using opulent materials such as suede, leather, and skins. “While working on the recent re-launch of our accessories line, pouring over the house archives, I was reintroduced to Pierre Balmain’s mastery of beautiful, similar patterns, and inevitably channelled that into today’s offerings,” Rousteing wrote in the show notes. “That is not the only thread of continuity, of course. As always, our pride in being one of Paris’ historic houses is front and centre, with our atelier’s prowess reflected in intricate embroideries, one-of-a-kind constructions, and remarkable leatherwork. That same finesse is evident in the new creations from our accessories collection. They form part of one coherent, indivisible whole – reflecting both the historic Balmain DNA and today’s spirit of youth, freedom and rebellion – while accompanying our army on its perfect roadtrip of liberation and discovery."
Models Jourdan Dunn, Lily Donaldson, and Hadid closed the show in a series of vampy black outfits to the reprise of "Smells Like Teen Spirit," with Kendall Jenner taking the final pass in a dress made out of crocodile skin (PETA, look away now). That may not sound like the wardrobe of your typical intrepid explorers, but Rousteing's cast of worldly warriors (who shed their armour last season) and striking silhouettes will no-doubt pop up at Kardashian-Jenner family get-togethers in the coming months.