At the age of 25 Olivier Rousteing replaced Christophe Decarnin as creative director of Balmain. Today, with 29 years old he’s still at the position from which he is shacking up the Luxury Industry.
This post isn’t going to be about Balmain, but about Olivier Rousteing, this Fashion House’s genius, who has leveraged a luxury brand to the digital peak, and who is creating trends with the new generations like any other brand has done before.
With 1,2 million followers on Instagram, Rousteing has established himself not just as the creative mind that gives birth to the brand’s collections, but like Balmain’s main Public Relations’ face and its biggest influencer. He is very active on social media, which he not only uses as a work tool, but also to post moments of his personal life. He has conferred to Balmain his passions for social media – Everything that the brand does turns into viral, whether is a new product launch, or the attendance to a Premier together with some of his super models army.
HOW TO SHAKE UP THE FASHION INDUSTRY?
- Like O.R you have to create your own virtual nation of followers
On May 18th, Olivier Rousteing, announced the brand’s collaboration with H&M in a press release in which he referred to “#HMBalmaination: a movement of togetherness, fueled on a hashtag”.
#HMBalmaination is an evolution of a similar hashtag previously used by Rousteing, #balmainarmy, which distinguishes Balmain’s entourage from others. The use of cult concepts like army or nation forces us sub-consciously to choose sides, and requires greater loyalty to the head of the cult, because, of course, every army has its commander. Not surprisingly, in fashion, it is the designer who assumes the role of leader. It is he who determines the concepts that drive the collections. It is he who communicates with fans via social media. It is he who coins the hashtag.
- Build bounds with the celebrities of the moment
Who hasn’t heard of the Kardasians-Jenner sisters? And of the super models Gigi Hadid or Jourdan Dunn? They are good friends of the creative director and they have all joined the Balmain Army. Of course, Olivier Rousteing takes a smart advantage of these friendships and chooses them to star in the brand’s advertising campaigns.
The first of these campaigns was the Spring-Summer 2015 menswear advertising, called “Army of Lovers”, that showed just married Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Olivier wanted to capture a moment of love: “Together, they represent love, beauty and diversity – they are the new modernity. This is more than a campaign, it expresses something beyond clothes – it is a celebration of love and friendship. This is a new statement for Balmain”.
The most recent one is Balmain’s siblings-themed fall 2016 advertising campaign, starring power sisters like Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Gigi and Bella Hadid and Joan and Erika Smalls. Olivier said that the intimacy captured in Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s Balmain inspired him to keep featuring familial relationships.
- The last, do something that no one has done before.
On May 28, Balmain made History in Fashion by being the first fashion house that created a Head of Hairstyle, a position solely centered on the creative direction of hairstyling. The named “Master Hair Designer” is Nabil Harlow: stylist, wig maker, and overall hair wizard, and whose responsibilities are to create new trends, work on the campaigns, videos, magazines, and to focus on hair in a way that they have not done before.
Almost everything that the brand has done is the last year and a half has been trending topic in all fashion magazines and social media. However, all the initiatives are directly related to Olivier Rousteing, who gains everyday new followers that join his #BalmainArmy. Or should I say his #RousteingArmy?
I don’t know if you have realized, but the 3rd point – Creating the position of “Master Hair Designer” – is something that comes from Balmain’s executive committee, while we have assigned the initiative to Olivier, like if the brand was entirely formed by its creative director.
In my opinion, Balmain can be facing a big threat that is covered up very well: First of all, don’t forget that Balmain is a 100 years old brand, with loyal customers to maintain. Even though this real clients are just a few, they are the ones buying the big dresses. Nowadays, a brand has to be balanced in a way that 1. stays in the top of mind of the people – and by this I mean to be digital – and 2. that keeps the incomes that luxury brands need to support that popularity.
It won’t be long before this kind of designer, who has such obedient admirers that they tag their photos upon a simple command, becomes the greatest threat to fashion brands and their backers. Indeed, what happens when the first such designer turns on his own fashion house and takes his virtual nation with him?
I leave you with this reflection. I wish a very nice week.