In our April 2015 issue, we spoke with Balmain designer Olivier Rousteing, a fashion wunderkind whose vibrant designs blend pop culture with pop colors. With youth comes fearlessness, as this self-assured 29-year-old designer demonstrates with pizzazz. Here, he sounds off on his fashion perspective, his thought behind sexy clothes---and why he decided to cast Kimye in the Balmain ads.
You were only 25 years old when you were given the reins, so how did you know what to do?
"When you start, you have some doubts and fears, but you grow up at the same time that your collection matures. What helped me was my honesty, my sincerity, and my youth. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and I do more and more so today. I'm not trying to be someone else."
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Is your perspective on fashion ever affected by your age?
"My point of view is about listening to the new generation. I'm into pop culture and what's happening in this world. I don't need to be stuck in the '70s or '50s or whatever decade is trendy. Sometimes I think that's why celebrities like Balmain so much, because it looks fresh, and they can actually feel young. They come because they want to be part of this Balmain world."
My favorite was Shailene Woodley at the MTV Movie Awards. Who excites you the most?
"I was so happy because Shailene was able to show a different side of her personality. Wearing Balmain is like an exercise because you have to push yourself. When Kendall Jenner and Kim Kardashian arrived at a party in Paris with all of my models, they looked like soldiers from a fashion army. It's not only about party clothes but also about giving a message of strength. And I love when Rihanna tries on clothes in my office."
"I believe in strong women. I love glamour and fabulousness, which is obvious. I love twisting whatever is around me in the culture. I love diversity. I'm of mixed race, adopted from an orphanage. My parents are white, and I'm in a French luxury house. I bring all of these things to my fashion and my girls. And I feel more powerful for it because I'm not scared."
You are also unafraid to push the boundaries of sex. Why is that a good look?
"There is something very confident about wearing sexy clothes. But it's really about the attitude and mentality. I invite women to believe in themselves, no matter the body shape or where they come from. But if you don't wear Balmain with confidence, you will look ridiculous."
That makes it easy to forget that Balmain was once designed by Oscar de la Renta. Do you ever look back?
"The archives are very important. Pierre Balmain is always in my mind when I sketch. I have always believed in his vision: structured shoulder pads, waists defined with belts, and sharp tailoring. And I'm in love with Oscar de la Renta's archives. You can see the craftsmanship and the richness in his work. I had the chance to meet him in his studio in New York, and after that I appreciated his clothes even more. So beautiful and romantic but at the same time so powerful."
"When I was young, I never had a reference of a mixed-ethnicity couple. Today they are among the most talked-about people, and North is one of the most beautiful babies on the planet. They represent a family for the new world."
If you had a theme song, what would it be?
"Black or White," by Michael Jackson. It doesn't matter if you're black or white."