After watching the Balmain Fall/Winter 2017 show today — we were curious to look back at how the 72-year-old Parisian fashion house has changed since the leader of #BalmainArmy — Olivier Rousteing took the helm as creative director in 2011.
Although today we recognize Rousteing as the proprietor behind the brand’s opulent embroidered corset style dresses, military style jackets, and intricately beaded garments — you would be surprised to know Balmain didn’t always look like this. Furthermore, Rousteing was not the first designer to segue the fashion house into this glitzier era.
When founder Pierre Balmain headed creative direction during the ’50s, the brand was largely considered an expert in couture, not ready-to-wear. One that was so highly esteemed by the fashion industry that the late Vogue editor Diana Vreeland stated, “A garment made by Pierre Balmain was the very quintessence of haute couture.”
After Pierre Balmain’s passing in 1982, a succession of new creative directors took over the fashion house, most notably Oscar de la Renta from 1993 to 2002. His collections for Balmain often mirrored that of his eponymous line, featuring feminine, ladylike silhouettes like low-hem fitted midi skirts, blazer jackets that cinched at the waist, and full skirts and gowns.
It wasn’t until Christophe Decarnin took over as creative director in 2005 that Balmain took a turn toward more celebrity-friendly clothing — featuring flashier styles, inclusion of bright colors, lots of leather — and became much, much more provocative.
It was Decarnin who helped appropriate the idea of a Balmain obsession, instituting “Balmania” among French celebrities and even capturing the attention of Michael Jackson, who wore one of the designer’s famous band-style jackets.
But in 2011, Decarnin suddenly stepped down from his role to treat his battle with depression. This unfortunate event catapulted the young, bright-eyed Olivier Rousteing into the limelight. Rousteing, who was working as a designer at the brand at that time, went on to take on the biggest role of his life. With a fresh eye and keen sensibility on social media (Rousteing currently boasts over 4 million Instagram followers), he revitalized the brand to one that now cites fashion “it” girls Gigi Hadid, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, and Rihanna as part of his #BalmainArmy as well as pretty much the entire Kardashian clan, including Kanye West.
Rousteing, who is now (only) 31, tapped into the new millennial generation in such a powerful way that his success helped triple the brand’s revenue in 2015, bringing in an estimated $136 million.
Click ahead to see how Balmain has transitioned through the years before and after Olivier Rousteing took the helm and judge for yourself — has it changed for the better, the worse, or not much at all?