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Since tak­ing the helm at Balmain at the age of 25, Olivier Rouste­ing has re-en­er­gised Paris fash­ion, com­bin­ing old-school el­e­gance with the new-me­dia

glam­our of Ri­hanna and the Kar­dashi­ans. By Hi­lary Rose.

Propped non­cha­lantly against a sofa in Balmain’s Paris head­quar­ter­sters is a huge, framed ad­ver­tis­ing shot of Ri­hanna. She looks sen­sa­tional, in an off-the-shoul­der he-shoul­der denim bodice, with gold chains rip­pling through it. The im­age says every­thingery­thing about the ven­er­a­ble ho­sue of Balmain in the 21st cen­tury: cool, sexy, con­fi­dent. “I love a woman who is con­fi­dent with her body, colour, and sex­i­ness,” says Olivier Rouste­ing, the 29-year-old cre­ative di­rec­tor, fid­dling ling rest­lessly with his phone be­hind a Per­spex desk. “Balmain is su­per-French ch and su­perParisian, but peo­ple for­get that Paris was Paris be­cause de­sign­ers like Yves Saint Lau­rent and Gabrielle Chanel pushed the bound­aries. I love the tra­di­tions of French fash­ion, but ut to­day I’m push­ing the bound­aries for a new gen­er­a­tion of girl.” Dressed in a black vel­vet Balmain din­ner jacket, flimsy white Balmain vest, skin­nykinny jeans, and arm­fuls of bangles and friend­ship bracelets, Rouste­ing is his own best ad­vert. Charm­ing, in­tel­li­gent, and funny, he has the face of an an­gel and the charisma of a rock star. He also has the ap­peal­ing habit of not tak­ing him­self too se­ri­ously: the man­tel­piece in his of­ficece is laden, not with fash­ion’s stan­dard-is­sue white or­chids, but soft toy dogs, a gift from his as­sis­tant.ssis­tant.

Rouste­ing has been at Balmain since 2009, and at the helm since 2011, when he was just 25. His CV con­sisted of a de­greeree from ESMOD, a fash­ion col­lege in Paris, and five years at Roberto Cavalli. He con­cedes that the Hivelin fam­ily, who own Balmain,lmain, took a big risk in hir­ing some­one so young and in­ex­pe­ri­enced. nced. Equally, the pres­sure on him was, and re­mains, enor­mous.

“I’m a re­ally se­ri­ous per­son, I have my sched­ules andnd dead­lines, and I hit them per­fectly, but at the same time, I never for­get that we live in an amaz­ing fash­ion bub­ble, pro­tected from the re­al­ity of the world.”

Born in Bordeaux, Rouste­ing spent the first 18 months of his life in an or­phan­age, nage, be­fore be­ing adopted by a white cou­ple. He knows noth­ing about his birth par­entsts and has no in­ter­est in find­ing out. From the age of two, he sketched con­stantly.

“I was an only child and lonely, and my par­ents were away work­ing a lot, so I sketched to es­cape. I sketched women and made up sto­ries about them. It was a way for me to have com­pany. I’m a dreamer.”

He was also clever. His par­ents en­cour­aged him to be­come a lawyer and he won a place at law school, but dropped out to pur­sue a ca­reer in fash­ion. “At some point your pas­sion be­comes your job,” he says. “And when I ex­plained that to my par­ents, they loved it. They al­ways sup­ported me and loved me. They

Be­hind the scenes with Kim Kar­dashian and Ken­dall Jen­ner

Rouste­ing’s re­cent Au­tumn/ Win­ter ’15 col­lec­tion for the house of Balmain

Rouste­ing’s re­cent Au­tumn/ Win­ter ’15 col­lec­tion for the house of Balmain

Rouste­ing’s re­cent Au­tumn/ Win­ter ’15 col­lec­tion for the house of Balmain

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