Olivier Rousteing came out at the end sporting a skinhead - and Gigi Hadid opened the show wearing her hair in box braids. A version of Nirvana's Hello opened the show, whilst a 'fashion version' of California Dreaming closed the show. Somewhere between the worlds of rock 'n' roll and a new kind of aggressive folk, the A/W 17 collection marched - or rather stampeded - very much to the beat of its own drum. Very much disconnected with so much that is going on elsewhere in fashion, Rousteing is engaging with a clientele that goes way beyond the concept of a customer base. They are clearly fans.
The glam-wildness of the collection felt like an eighties Italian hybrid world of Cavalli and Krizia. With the house of Roberto Cavalli somewhat at sea at the moment, Balmain is doing a great job of making sure that the world's body oiled brigade of pin ups has a dress to go with their new boob job.
However, the more-is-more mentality at the house of Balmain is continuing to put them into a cultural cul-de-sac. Looking loaded means loading on the craftsmanship to the extent that the women are armoured by bejewelled cobweb units, near-grotesque crochet, overworked bugle beaded - and fringing. Lots of fringing. The most wearable items were the embellished sweater dresses that looked not only great for evening but also - if you happen to be a Kardashian - for a day.
The final section which was more stripped away, fitted and streamlined was ironically the most memorable and successful. The girls here were actually wearing clothes - as opposed to the other way around. And it all looked much more slick. As impenetrable as this girl's inner circle, 80% of the collection was pretty difficult to access from a critical point of view. It is becoming so long that it's becoming difficult to identify a single take away memo. Rousteing might do well to remember that there is a difference between fashion and clothes. His glamour is in danger of becoming commodified.
When it just starts to just be about a commercially successful aesthetic, sharks will always start circling. Take, for example, the house of Saint Laurent. We've seen this week how it is strategically shifting its focus to try and attract some of Balmain's audience. I don't think Balmain's customers will be effectively lured, however. Like I said, they're not customers - they're fans. Olivier is so deeply entrenched within his Balmain army both on and offline that his personal relationship with the world of his customer is inimitable. The cool, stand-off-ish world of Saint Laurent can but mimic the heart and soul that is undoubtedly here.