Balmain F/W 2016
Balmain F/W 2016

If one wasn’t already in love with Olivier Rousteing’s incredibly sexy designs, this collection may be the one to bring you into the fold. Strong. Vibrant. Sexy. And OH so not the 70s. This is a collection about strength and determination, getting, or perhaps taking, what one wants, and doing it all without giving up an ounce of feminity. The live orchestra was back for a second season, which was wonderful, playing a soundtrack that might have just as easily been suited for a battle scene in Game of Thrones. Had Rousteing chosen to have models wear swords it wouldn’t have felt out of character.

Equally interesting is that Rousteing was able to achieve these strong looks while switching up his color palette, dropping the jewel tones he’s used the past several seasons and going with pastels, many of which were the realm of the pink and blue Pantone colors of the year. Still, the colors were almost the only thing soft about this collection. Silhouettes were very strong, playing to feminine shapes in the most severe of methods. Waists were cinched with hard, broad belts. Shoulders, when not cut out, were almost pointed and sharp. Hips were exaggerated just enough to put some power in the backside. Anyone familiar with pop culture knows who Rousteing was thinking of when he created these pieces and while she wasn’t there herself this year, her mom and husband were front row and her baby sister led the pack of models.

Corset references are endless in this collection, from how panels are laced together to numerous underbust looks and extended corsets with skirts. We’ve seen a few more subtle references to corsets in other collections, but there’s nothing subtle here and Rousteing rides the shape-forcing concept for all its worth.

Verticle ruffles  play a dominant role in a set of ensembles that grey that line between party wear and boudoir attire. The element starts along the seams of lace trousers, which could ostensibly be worn out to the right party, and later takes over the whole look in a body suit with gold colored belt and brass zipper up the back that seduces one just close enough to cleave one’s head from their shoulders.

Thick rows of fringed tassels are the third major look, and it would be a mistake if we failed to not that in many instances the same pieces where the tassels are getting our attention also have some incredible pearl and beadwork on upper part of the bodice along with some incredibly detailed crochet work. These are very complicated looks that might seem soft at first glance but don’t be fooled by the abundance of decoration. These pieces are just as strong as the others.

Pushing the collection over the top are fabrics where stripes are replaced by alternating sheer panels so that the color one sees varies with the person wearing the garment. There are also tall lucite collars, wide belts and waist cinches, and carefully considered use of fur. Yes, there is some Givenchy influence, but the overall power of this Balmain collection is stronger.

Haters are going to hate, of course, and they’re already lining up on social media to take a stab at the collection, but the claims are baseless. Rousteing did his homework, got creative, and presented a collection dramatically and refreshing different from all the drivel we’ve seen on most runways this season. One needs a brave heart to wear these clothes, and a very deep pocketbook, but just one ensemble is well worth the investment.

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