Balmain Resort 2023 Menswear

“The beauty of Egypt is its maximalism and its minimalism,” said Olivier Rousteing. The French designer translated that starting point with great verve in a collection that was packed with overt, hyper-representative references to his ancient source material—Tutunkhamun’s mask, the material entombment of mummies, the scarab, and the asp that Cleopatra grasped to her bosom—alongside more restrained communications about his own authorship. Rousteing says that since he was bandaged after suffering terrible burns, this has become a signature of his collections, and it was here in many stretchily-sexy (and slightly “Thriller”-esque) dresses. But the relationship of the bandage to the stripe, which in France is Breton and a pillar of national identity, ricocheted fascinatingly back to the designer’s origin story.

The blue and gold Tutankhamun pieces echoed the canard under which Rousteing, who was adopted and had no information about his pedigree until recently, grew up. “My parents always thought I was Egyptian,” he said. “So it was always part of my DNA, in a sense.” Rouesting honored that truly personal connection in a collection that of course would have best been presented in the shadow of the pyramids, but for arbitrary reasons is not. This was a shame but the product still amply reflected the thought behind the design.

The designer said that his clients are increasingly drawn to individual, atelier-fashioned pieces—“like art”—in order to generate the warm feeling of owning a one-off. Chief examples here included a fierce spiky dress made of wood lined in knit, and the gleamingly metallic animalia pieces. The beautiful, oyster-ish cocoon shapes were amongst the many air-kisses blown at the house’s couture founder.

Rousteing has recently become obsessed with platforms, which elevated many looks here. What’s the score? “Well, you know, the sky’s the limit and we all want to touch it. But sometimes you need to be careful because you can get too close to the sun and you can burn your wings.” Ah, Icarus in heels. Rousteing and Balmain fly on.

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