If you’re looking for subtlety and pared-back, understated luxury fashion, you’re in the wrong place at the Balmain show. This afternoon, creative director Olivier Rousteing served up his signature maximalist, hyper-embellished, multi-textured bold vision on a diverse army of strong, confident women at his usual venue, the resplendent Hôtel Potocki in Paris. But for AW17, the collection 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 travelling 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, colourful 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 and cornrowed hair by Sam McKnight. 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.
Gigi was swiftly followed by BFF and fellow Insta-approved supermodel Kendall Jenner, who strode down the mirrored catwalk in a cut-out tan dress with a feather-adorned skirt as Zayn Malik, Nick Jonas, Nicki Minaj and Anaïs Gallagher watched from the front row. Kendall's family – who loyally wear Balmain season after season and have starred in campaigns for the French fashion house – were notably absent, though momager Kris tweeted her pride immediately following the show.
The earth-toned collection in varying shades of brown, tan, gold and orange heavily featured pattern and 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 explained 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 Gigi 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 passage in a dress made out of crocodile skin – PETA, look away now. Not the wardrobe of your typical intrepid explorers, Rousteing's cast of worldly warriors (who shed their armour last season) wore striking, fierce silhouettes we'll undoubtedly see all over the red carpet and the Kardashian/Jenners' Snapchats in the coming months.