An army descended on Hollywood this week. However, in lieu of camo and fatigues, they sported strong-shouldered blazers, striped sweaters and slouchy leather pants. This army, of course, was the “Balmain army,” the title Olivier Rousteing has given to fans of the French luxury label he designs, and the crowd had come to celebrate the launch of Puma X Balmain, a collaboration between the two labels with an assist from model-actress Cara Delevingne.
The event attracted celebrity friends including G-Eazy, Alessandra Ambrosio, Bella Thorne and Eva Longoria as well as other guests who sipped on cocktails and snacked on fresh popcorn while roaming around the cavernous interior of Milk Studios, which was outfitted with sequined punching bags and stacks of boxing gloves.
In the center of the room was a dramatically lit boxing ring surrounded by metal bleachers, which later served as the stage for an energetic dance performance by an agile troupe wearing pieces from the sportswear-inspired collection (think slinky tanks, sports bras, boxing shorts, chunky sneakers and tracksuits). An initial 35-piece collection, ranging from $45 to $650, is available in-store and on puma.com. Some pieces will be available at Balmain boutiques and select retailers. (Another six pieces, produced by Balmain, will be featured as part of the luxe brand’s spring 2020 looks.)
Before Thursday’s performance, Delevingne and Rousteing cozied up on a couch backstage where they discussed their working relationship, why they chose a boxing theme and what they hope fans take away from this collection. Below are excerpts from that conversation.
You two were already close friends before collaborating. So were you nervous at all about working together in a professional context?
Cara Delevingne: No, because not to be cheesy, but we’re both quite pure hearts. And we were both so open to each other‘s ideas. Even if I had the worst idea in the world, I think Olivier would have lied and said it was OK and made me feel good about it.
Olivier Rousteing: That’s not true! Well, you didn’t have a bad idea, but my role was, when you had something in your mind, to help you make it happen. She was really the genius of this collab.
CD: I’ll take it!
A genius — that’s some high praise.
OR: She was! She had all the ideas from the clothes to the marketing to the campaign. Everything. Me? I had my own vision, which I shared with her, but she had such a strong point of view that when she was telling me, I was excited. But I would challenge her. She’d tell me something and I’d say, “Yeah, but how do we make that?”
CD: Yeah, he would make me think not just of the end goal but of how to get there. That was really helpful. It really grounded me. Instead of just shooting off random ideas or not being as involved as I would want to be, he would say, “No, that’s actually a good idea, and I want you to be run with it and be involved with it.” He made me feel like my ideas were valid.
That’s amazing because it can be scary to be creative and share your ideas.
CD: Yeah, and you have to take risks. And with Olivier, I’m very comfortable, so I can feel like I can be wrong — even though there’s no such thing as being wrong, you know? But we probably had some not-great ideas but I never felt like I was wrong.
Is there a piece that you’re particularly proud of?
OR: I’m proud of the whole collection because, you know I work for Balmain, which is one of the most expensive brands in France, a luxury brand. Cara is someone who is really precise with what she likes fashion-wise, and I’m really precise with my cut and quality. So we were challenged to make this feel luxurious, good quality, a good price. People love Balmain. People love Cara, but the reality is we wanted to make this affordable. And Puma really helped us with that, and you still feel like you get some luxury at the same time.
In this collection, there’s Balmain, there’s Puma, there’s Cara, and then you guys threw in the whole boxing theme. Where did that come from?
OR: She boxes. I box. We love boxing. What’s so interesting about boxing, though, is she called me and said, “You know, I want to be in the ring — boxing. I want to be fighting for something, not fighting against...”
CD: It was the idea of violence or what we perceive violence to be. Like boxing or self-defense, it’s not about violence. It’s about how you prepare for someone being violent. How you deal with conflict, with inner conflict. When you’re fighting someone, if you’re second-guessing yourself, you’re going to get knocked out — and that’s how life is. For me, the idea was about fighting yourself. It’s easier to fight yourself than love yourself. A lot of my fans are teenagers, and I wanted to create something that they could afford and that spoke to that teenage angst, that frustration. It feels like a passion project, and it speaks to people’s rights. You know, it’s funny because when we talk about boxing, I always think your strongest weapon isn’t your fists. It’s actually your voice.
What do you hope your fans take away from this collection?
CD: I hope it’s the idea behind the collection. It’s about self-belief, love, community, communication. The relationship you have with yourself. That everyone deserves to feel good and beautiful.
OR: Yes, exactly. Not just the collection itself but what it stands for.