Discover the next Open Days Milano · Firenze · London · Paris · Dubai Register nowDiscover the next Open Days
May 15, 2024

Olivier Rousteing: the Wonder Boy behind Balmain’s Met Gala sensation

Tyla reportedly made one of the most memorable Met Gala debuts ever, according to Vanity Fair. People magazine described the 22-year-old South African singer’s sand gown as one of the evening’s standout designs. Tyla’s Met Gala 2024 ensemble was indeed a sand sculpture dress, which, as you read correctly, did not remain intact by the end of the night. So, who is the Wonder Boy behind this sensation? None other than Olivier Rousteing of Balmain, the creative director credited with revitalising Pierre Balmain’s fashion house and propelling it to the top tier of social media presence.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Balmain (@balmain)

If you’re plugged into this world, you’re likely aware that Tyla and Olivier Rousteing know how to make an entrance. And for Tyla’s debut Met Gala appearance, the duo certainly didn’t disappoint; they were clad in bespoke Balmain attire and even made an impromptu adjustment with Rousteing on the famous red-carpeted stairs. In a nutshell, to adhere to the dress code ‘Garden of Time’—a reference to the new exhibition ‘Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion’—Olivier Rousteing transformed Tyla into a walking hourglass.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Balmain (@balmain)

The Grammy winner ascended (or rather, was carried up) the Met stairs wearing a custom Balmain creation crafted from sand and micro-crystals, meticulously tailored based on a cast of her body. Rousteing, sporting a matching top featuring his profile embedded in the sand, later shared a video on Instagram showing himself kneeling before Tyla, cutting into her dress with scissors to transform the original floor-length gown and train into a mini-length version, allowing Tyla greater freedom of movement. The internet erupted with excitement, and backstage photos of this viral moment are still circulating on social media.

Bold and opulent, luxurious and shimmering. It’s Balmain, seamlessly blending the essence of yesterday with the spirit of today. Two distinct brands are intricately woven together: one forged by Pierre Balmain nearly 80 years ago and the other meticulously restored by the current creative director, Olivier Rousteing, since 2009 to resonate with the digital age. Yet, for Gen Z, Rousteing is more than just a couturier – he emerges as a true style icon. This belief was further reinforced when students at Istituto Marangoni Paris had the opportunity to meet him, discovering that he’s not only a fashion designer but also a wellspring of inspiration. 

Olivier Rousteing at Istituto Marangoni Paris for an exclusive talk with students

Olivier Rousteing, Creative Director of Balmain, at Istituto Marangoni Paris 

Get set to immerse yourself in the Balmain community with our ultimate guide to speaking confidently about this iconic fashion house. We’ve curated everything you need to know to stay up to date and gain a better understanding of the brand’s latest achievements – from Olivier Rousteing’s collections to the celebrities adorned in Balmain and even the buzz-worthy updates flooding your social media feeds.


Balmain’s Roots

The Balmain brand was created by French fashion designer Pierre Balmain in 1945. Balmain, the designer, was born in 1914 in France; he graduated from the School of Art and began his career working with the famous fashion designer Edward Molyneux. 

While working at Maison Lelong, he launched a style featuring fuller skirts and thinner waistlines, which would later inspire another protégé of Edward Molyneux, Christian Dior, for his New Look.

In 1945, Pierre Balmain established his brand, Balmain, and thanks to Helena Rubinstein’s endorsement, he dressed Hollywood celebrities like Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren, Joséphine Baker, Brigitte Bardot, Vivien Leigh and Mae West.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Balmain (@balmain)

Richly embroidered garments and statement accessories have always been a part of Balmain’s DNA


The Balmain Signature Style

What Balmain created was a chic and beautiful female image. World War II was about to end, and it was a time when women needed to rebuild their self-confidence.

Balmain women’s clothing is positioned as a brand that encourages women to confidently showcase their beauty while also embodying the strength and power of women. The designs not only highlight the charm of the female figure but also interpret the unique and intricate handmade details that define the French brand, resulting in a visually captivating effect. 

In October 1945, Balmain released its first haute couture collection. His bold new style with strong personal characteristics was called ‘New French Style’ at the time. After Pierre Balmain died in 1982, the brand house was taken over by Erik Mortensen, Pierre Balmain’s right hand, until 1990. Then Oscar de la Renta ruled the brand for the Nineties, adding his unique sense of sophisticated high-end elegance.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Balmain (@balmain)

Balmain staple icons are masculine items made hyperfeminine, such as evening dresses with structured shoulders, along with the six-button blazer and the ‘veste hussar.’


Shifting Sands in Pierre Balmain’s Empire

Balmain has long epitomised luxury and red-carpet allure. Still, the brand faced a financial crisis and almost went bankrupt in 2004, just two years after Oscar de la Renta stepped down as the creative helm of the fashion house. Since then, the brand has had a tumultuous journey.

Laurent Mercier briefly assumed control of both ready-to-wear and couture after De la Renta’s exit, only to depart within a year. In 2003, Christophe Lebourg succeeded Mercier. However, the brand experienced yet another swift change in creative direction when Christophe Decarnin arrived a few years later, infusing Balmain with an edgy aesthetic reminiscent of his work at Paco Rabanne.

Decarnin’s departure in 2011 marked a turning point for Balmain, coinciding with a period of significant stylistic evolution. Olivier Rousteing, who had joined Balmain in 2009 and collaborated closely with Decarnin, took over the role of creative director on April 26, 2011, at the age of 25. Tasked with revitalising the brand’s appeal and resonating with younger audiences, Rousteing set out on a mission to redefine Balmain’s identity.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Balmain (@balmain)

The legendary Balmain Labyrinth is back again in Balmain’s Pre-Fall 2023 collection as a tribute to Pierre Balmain


Balmain’s Renaissance under Olivier Rousteing

Olivier Rousteing is the youngest creative director and the first black designer in the history of the Balmain brand. Before that, he served as the head of Cavalli’s women’s ready-to-wear collection.

When the 25-year-old Olivier Rousteing was appointed to take over Balmain in 2011, he inherited the founder’s vision and created the unique Balmain aesthetics as we know it today.

Since his first days as creative director, he has massively used social media to boost the brand’s reputation and revive the hype around it.

Olivier Rousteing forged strong relationships with celebrities such as the Kardashians and Beyoncé during the heyday of the ‘influencer marketing’ trend. Additionally, he secured partnerships with iconic pop-culture brands like Barbie and Pokémon. In 2018, he pioneered innovative technologies by introducing Balmain’s New Virtual Army, featuring three CGI models showcasing his pre-fall 2018 collection, long before the emergence of AI-generated avatars.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Balmain (@balmain)

The ‘Renaissance couture’ capsule collection co-designed by Olivier Rousteing and Beyoncé for her album Renaissance, announced in March this year, consists of 16 sets of costumes named after the album’s songs 

He had the enormous responsibility of reviving a struggling luxury fashion brand, and he succeeded in creating a recognisable and distinctive style for Balmain.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by @evianwater

The Balmain x Evian co-branding in October 2022 was a breakthrough for a fashion brand. Olivier Rousteing designed the limited-edition bottle with baroque motifs and developed eco-conscious yarns made from recycled plastic bottles.


Revolution, Not Evolution

Olivier Rousteing believes in revolution, not just evolution. Drawing inspiration from the brand’s history and French culture, he seamlessly integrates his personal aesthetics and cultural background into his designs.

Olivier Rousteing at Istituto Marangoni Paris with students and Massimo Casagrande (IM Programme Leader)

Olivier Rousteing with Istituto Marangoni Paris students and Massimo Casagrande (Programme Leader at Istituto Marangoni Paris)

Elegant, luxurious, sexy and self-contained designs set the style tone for the brand. Balmain’s ready-to-wear collections feature sharp lines and structure to accentuate the body’s natural curves.

The bold shoulder pad elements and waist design merge sophistication and elegance, exuding charm while enhancing temperament and showcasing femininity with a blend of rigidity and softness. At the same time, the brand makes extensive use of high-end tweed and knitted fabrics.

Although Rousteing’s new Balmain may completely differ from Pierre Balmain’s style, the brand fearlessly breaks stereotypes and sets new rules.



Li Jing
MA in Fashion Promotion, Communication & Digital Media, Milan