Balmain Spring 2023 Ready-to-Wear Collection


“We all saw climate change this summer. We all saw fires around the world. And coming back with a show in September, thinking about whether our pants are going to be high-waisted or low-waisted—it seems a bit futile to me.” So said Olivier Rousteing before a show that that was in equal parts inspiring, infuriating and surprising.

The biggest surprise was Cher, who popped up at the finale of this 100+ look show with Rousteing on the runway. She’d been hired to pitch a new handbag, and we’d seen her on a pre-show video, but had no sense she was in the stadium. Her ensemble was very If I Could Turn Back Time, and indeed, at 76, she looked convincingly like time was at her total command: quite amazing.

The inspiring part was rooted in Rousteing. Dressed like a samurai messiah, he told us backstage that while he could not claim this collection was 100 per cent sustainable, he’d used fabrics made of paper, of banana, and of wicker (in the couture) to be as much so as possible. He added: “I have friends who tell me they don’t want to have kids, because what will our world be tomorrow? And at the end of the day it’s not about taste. It’s not about aesthetics.” When faced with the hardest proposition—that all fashion is essentially unsustainable for its inherent ephemerality—he convincingly riposted that his ongoing project is to radicalize his supply chain for the better. So props to him.

And yet when you were watching the collection it was hard to square the circle of sustainability and consumption. We editors were sat alongside 1,000 invited guests—-Neymar!—and around 6,000 standing punters who had snapped up tickets to be at this third installment of Balmain’s show/festival. The collection, when it came down the open air runway, was almost not the point: but the main elements were trans-cultural and riffed against Renaissance references (this a slight recycling of Gaultier) in the prints and the astronomically hardwared accessories.

When Ashley Graham hit the runway, hearteningly the audience cheered. But by this point we were over an hour-and-a-half beyond the advertised start-time and the industry audience was beginning to wilt, 13 hours after our first appointments of the day, and with our bottoms soggy from the rain-soaked benches. Then came a tightly edited couture collection that was nonetheless so challenging (and tight) for the models to walk in that it lasted around 15 minutes longer. Which is why so many hungry, cold and sleepless editors—but not we true stalwart reviewers, of course—left before Cher arrived. This is said with love, but Rousteing and Balmain need to reconcile their DTC and B2B rationales when amplifying their shows going forward.



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