Show Report

Show Report: Balmain A/W 12 Womenswear

by Alexander Fury on 1 March 2012

Alexander Fury reports on the Balmain A/W 12 womenswear show.

Alexander Fury reports on the Balmain A/W 12 womenswear show.

Imagine being stuck between a Balmain jacket and a Faberge egg - both decorative, decadent and a king's ransom when it comes to price (although, on the latter, the Faberge egg may actually outdo the Balmania. But only just). How to decide between the two? For Balmain head honcho, Olivier Rousteing, the choice is easy: both. With a cherry on top. That, after all, is the Balmain way.

It made for a rather sensational show - the very definition of visual overload. How else to describe pearl-encrusted, flower embroidered dresses and trousersuits, rich velvets, quilted leathers outlined in gold studs or lurex threads. Rousteing had done his homework, namely in figuring out that if a woman is willing to pay four figures for a tight, embroidery-scabbed mini-dress, she'll probably pay five figures. So you may as well chafe at the weight restrictions and load your models up with bedazzlement until they buckle like a Buckaroo mule.

There was a lavish folly to this show that recalled the late eighties - it wasn't just the shoulders, although each was the size of a wheel of Edam, and about as subtle balanced atop a sleeve head. It wasn't even that decoration, redolent of the time when Lesage was maxed-out with orders fuelled by Petrodollars shipping beaded ball-gowns on beaded hangers in beaded clothes-covers to the Arab nations. It was in the panache of the whole thing, a two-finger salute to the restrictions of Minimalism and the austerity measures sweeping Europe. The only credit crunch a Balmain woman is likely to experience is when her credit card crumbles in her Birkin from overuse. And she has several dozen others to back it up.

This collection had guts. There was nothing half-hearted or apologetic about what Rousteing was proposing. It also didn't have the flaw that so marked the work of his predecessor Christophe Decarnin - the slight taint that those clothes may be trying a little bit too hard to be a little too cool. Rousteing doesn't care about being cool. He wants to have fun with the Balmain legacy of chopped-out and sequinned up good-time party dressing. This was a glitz blitz in the best of worst taste, and it was totally convincing.


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