The high-low collab you need to have this fall.
f you consider that H&M broke word of its collaboration with Balmain at the Billboard Music Awards earlier this year and offered the press a sneak peek during the fall haute-couture fashion shows in Paris, you get a sense of the glitz and glamour that factor into this particular undertaking. After last year’s H&M collab featuring Alexander Wang’s highoctane athletic gear, the Balmain offering revs up the chic, to say nothing of the cachet. You can safely conclude that Balmain x H&M—with its thigh-high boots, devoré-velvet tops, green sequined minidresses and the pièce-de-résistance body-con number covered with the French house’s signature embroidery—marks the most decadent collection to date.
It may also be the most socialmedia savvy, thanks to Balmain’s creative director, Olivier Rousteing, whose Instagram following is 1.2 million strong. The house itself counts even more—over 2 million—and let’s not forget H&M’s 9.3 million followers. Ever since the announcement, the hashtag # hmbalmain nation has served to fuel the hype and underscore Rousteing’s goal of growing his “Balmain army” into a global union of wearers.
I’m in Paris to chat with Rousteing, and we’re seated in a salon ornamented with elaborate mouldings not unlike the rococo embellishments on dresses worn most famously by Rousteing’s BFF Kim Kardashian. She and her pals Beyoncé, Rihanna, Kendall Jenner and Jourdan Dunn have contributed to Balmain’s desirability since the designer assumed his role in 2011 (at the remarkable age of 25). As he sees it, “You don’t just want the clothes; you want to be part of the Balmain world.” But for a teen who “grew up with H&M” and happened to be working at Roberto Cavalli at the time of the Italian house’s collaboration with H&M, the designer seems sensitive to attainability—even if the moment will come and go in a flash. “For me, it was important that, for once in their lives, [my fans] could get a piece of the Balmain dream,” he says sincerely.
Ann-Sofie Johansson, creative adviser for H&M, says that the translation of Balmain’s couture-level detail presented production challenges. “We do beading ourselves but not to this extent,” she notes in a separate conversation. The embroideries were done in India, where, she says, the suppliers were able to interpret the handicraft with impressive results. This means that some pieces will be higher priced and more limited in availability, but the good news is that motorcycle jeans, logo tees, flat boots and tailored blazers remain accessible. (And here’s a hint: Shop the men’s collection for some sharp crossover looks.)
“I know Olivier wants this to be the most successful collaboration,” says Johansson. She laughs and then adds, “He is constantly asking us ‘Do you think there will be lines outside? Do you think it will sell?’” As if. His nation eagerly awaits. n
Clockwise, from bottom: Metal choker ($119); viscose and elastane dress ($79.99); leather, cotton and metal sandals ($199); suede bag ($299); brass, glass and plastic earrings ($39.99); silk and velvet dress ($649). In stores on November 5 (hm.com)