Paris Fashion Week: At Balmain, Rihanna looms too large

Four looks from the Balmain spring/summer 2015 collection.
(Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images)

Skin is in -- skin wrapped in clear plastic, swathed in oversized, “Stop Making Sense” era suits, and spangled to high heaven, at least according to Balmain designer Olivier Rousteing, who showed his spring collection on Thursday during Paris Fashion Week.

Once again, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West (with mother-in-law Kris, too!) risked stealing the spotlight, especially pre-show, when Kardashian was tackled by a guy in the scrum to get to her car. But that’s another story.

Balmain in its recent incarnation at least has had a close association with rock ’n’ roll, from the spangled, shoulder-padded Michael Jackson-inspired jackets that put the house back on the map a few years back when Christophe Decarnin was in charge of things, to the spring 2014 collection campaign, featuring Rihanna as the face of the brand now designed by Rousteing.

But it may be time to sing a different tune.


The collection Rousteing showed Thursday felt like a music parody, and not in a good way.

The inspiration: A photograph of Rihanna seated next to Rousteing at a fashion show after-party last season. “She looked amazing in her transparent top,” the designer wrote in the show notes. “Was I jealous? Of course not, I was inspired.” Inspired by the strong and sexy images of his childhood, he went on to explain, including Janet Jackson in “Miss Jackson, If You’re Nasty,” and Madonna in her “Erotica” moment.

Key pieces: Sharply tailored suits in traffic-stopping colors with oversized, elongated jackets and bandeau tops. Suck-it-all-in mini-dresses covered in sparkly crystal stripes, or with sheer plastic insets leaving little to the imagination. Billowy, sheer maxi skirts and gowns over briefs or bodysuits, which brought to mind red carpet looks Rihanna has worn by other designers, namely Azzedine Alaia.

The verdict: Granted, the world has become one giant red carpet. (Exhibit A: the Kardashian clan in the front row.) But for Balmain to have relevance in the real world (as opposed to the faux real world on TV), Rousteing needs to figure out a way to dress someone other than a one-monikered star, a woman who needs for her livelihood, or maybe just for her self-respect, to cover those nipples up.

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