Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing Launches 44 François Premier, a Capsule Collection of Red Carpet–Worthy Gowns

“I think the brands that are the most timeless are the ones that speak about luxury,” said Olivier Rousteing from the Balmain headquarters. The designer was standing in the midst of 10 glamorous creations that comprise 44 François Premier, an eveningwear capsule on par with couture. Officially, this is the first time that Balmain has proposed a range of dresses dedicated to both the atelier (its location is the origin of the name) and the women who desire Balmain for their extra-special occasions.

To be sure, these are bona fide gowns; they skim the ground where Rousteing’s default length barely grazes the mid-thigh. Whereas we’re used to the extreme all-over embroideries in his runway collections, this grouping goes for high-gloss elegance. Start with Old Hollywood, pass through Paris in the ’80s, land on Rousteing’s sexy vibe, and you’ve arrived at 44 François Premier. Arguably the best example of this the elongated tailleur spliced with an LBD—the entire surface coated in sequins. The tailored black jacket has been reimagined in other styles, which gives the collection a sharp feminine-masculine attitude. Naturally, the sweetheart neckline plunging below the navel, high slits, and veiled skin are pure Rousteing; but the black tulle or puffs of marabou feathers signal his openness to a more classically couture look. “I’ve gone from a dress of armor to a dress of glamour,” he quipped.

“We really tried to restore the French tradition in all these dresses,” he said, pointing at the jewelry buttons punctuating a velvet bodice. As for how Rousteing began the first design (the vivid blue one, in case you’re curious) he said he looked to the archives for inspiration and wanted to evoke the spirit of Pierre Balmain as well as the extreme rock aesthetic established by Christophe Decarnin. But interestingly, there wasn’t any existing template of red carpet dresses to work from. What did exist was the atelier—a few of the people working there today are actually holdovers from the Oscar de la Renta era of Balmain, which would mean they have been there upward of 20 years.

Unlike actual couture, these dresses will be available without special order, although that’s obviously an option. Prices weren’t discussed. Rousteing, respectfully, didn’t care to mention numbers of any sort—the meters of tulle or hours of work that often get thrown around during this rarefied week: “It’s important to have a lot of humility in our work. I think the work involved is visible—an enormous amount of strass, an enormous amount of feathers. I think that the elegance is not to say.” And although he also declined to state for whom these dresses might be destined, the reveal comes at an opportune moment; apparently, some of the styles will be heading to Los Angeles on Friday for initial Oscars fittings.

“There has already been enormous interest,” he confirmed. In the meantime, a short video supporting the collection shows the dresses as a Vanity Fair–style group shot; here, there are models, but it isn’t much of a stretch to picture the likes of Lupita Nyong’o, Jane Fonda, Beyoncé, or Rihanna taking their places. “That’s what I love about what we’re creating here,” said Rousteing.

<cite class="credit">Photo: Courtesy of Balmain</cite>
Photo: Courtesy of Balmain
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