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Is my generation’s nostalgia for our turn-of-the-century childhood culture somehow less cool than fashion’s more familiar fixation on the ‘70s and “80s?’

That’s the question that has been bouncing around the Balmain studio and offices, as my team and I worked on this Spring-Summer 2020 collection.We all know that fashion has been happy to rely on vintage inspirations over the past few decades, with designers mining the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s for statement pieces and entire runways. But, for some, styles from the late nineties and early aughts somehow seem too recent to consider for revivals— perhaps due to a feeling that those looks need a bit more of the filter of time that always helps to smooth out past eras’ fashion bumps.

Nevertheless, we’re going there this season—and Balmain’s riffing on the distinctive sounds, spirit and styles of my youth is more than just a simple exercise in nostalgia for me. I’d also like to celebrate the transformative power of that moment.Sure, I love to be reminded of the old hits that I listened to over and over again as a kid—but now I realize that the artists behind my collection of scratched CDs were often manifestations of a new type of American Dream, resulting in a different sort of pop culture than that of previous generations.

Back then, for me—a black kid growing up in the provinces—just being able to listen to and see someone like Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child was incredibly empowering. Their success made it clear to me and others like me that you could actually “cross over” and be celebrated as a talent by all, while never having to compromise your pride in your origins or play rôles that others expected of you. Ideas that once might have been revolutionary were presented to us as simple facts—and always paired with the most addictive of melodies.

And it’s those addictive melodies—from Beyoncé, as well as artists like Britney, Christina and JLo—that are the ones associated with the looks that inspired this collection. This runway looks to the styles that my team and I remember and which we are more than ready to begin celebrating. We are happy to be able to embrace a past that we can actually remember, instead of once again turning to established references that can only be researched through archives.

Of course, this being Balmain, these turn-of-the-century explorations might look to my youth, but they rely on the masterful craftsmanship and singular tailoring skills that only a true Paris atelier is capable of. The famous Balmain embellishments have been given a decidedly modern touch for this runway, with the addition of the fine jewelry pieces that my team and I have designed, using extraordinary lab-grown diamonds from Diamond Foundry, the world’s only carbon-neutral diamond producer.

We believe that Diamond Foundry’s commitments to sustainable creation makes them the perfect partner for Balmain, complementing this house’s well-known dedication to fighting for inclusion, empowerment and the democratization of fashion. We’re proud to be the first Parisian house to work with Diamond Foundry and we look forward to including their diamonds in our upcoming runways.

A second collaboration for this collection is particularly close to my heart. As you may have already heard, Balmain recently teamed up with my friend, Kylie Jenner, for a new Kylie x Balmain Cosmetics line, which is being released today. After working closely with Kylie on that offering, it became clear to both of us that our new collection was the perfect one to rely for this runway. Of course, we had hoped to have Kylie here in Paris with us today—but the most important thing is that she takes care of herself and gets better soon.

Olivier Rousteing


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