Photo via Vogue
The #BalmainArmy just enlisted some needed recruits, hopefully marking the militant march away from Olivier Rousting’s fixation on all things Kardashian. Three of the original supers—Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford—stepped in front of photographer Steven Klein’s lens for a newly unveiled series of high contrast black-and-white images.
Speaking to Dazed Digital about the campaign, Rousting had this to say: “I used to stare at them—on TV and in video clips; in magazines and in campaigns… They made fashion relevant, as relevant to pop culture as music, cinema and sport…”
For the past few years, Balmain has defined the fashion ethos: over-the-top commercialism, marked by fast turnarounds and a major sidestepping to true artistry. Though the clothes are often striking and certainly well-constructed, they don’t propel fashion forward. They’re stagnant in a sense, with no meaning behind them.
Gone are the days of fashion as thought; challenging works, such as Alexander McQueen’s Highland Rape cannot exist in fashion today, at least in a lucrative sense. People want easy and accessible, and Balmain is partly responsible for that.
Add that to the brand’s squadron of reality TV poster children—Jenners, Hadids or Kardashians— and you’ve got one hell of a boring mess. Don’t even get me started on that tragic H&M campaign, which attempted to capture Balmain’s excessive materiality through cheaply produced and ill-conceived garments.These fashion shifts, helmed by Rousting’s Balmain, have left artists like Raf Simons, Alber Albez and Alexander Wang reeling from the current state of fashion affairs. Simons and Albez, specifically, have been quite vocal with their bleak outlooks on the industry’s future.
“We designers, we started as couturiers, with dreams, with intuition, with feeling.” Albez said in the New York Times. “We became ‘creative directors,’ so we have to create, but mostly direct. And now we have to become image-makers, creating a buzz, making sure that it looks good in the pictures. The screen has to scream, baby.” But, he said, “I prefer whispering. Everyone in fashion just needs a little more time.”
So, let’s take this latest campaign as a call to action for both Balmain and our industry. It’s time we bring fashion back to the Golden Age. We need thoughtful garments that propel society and fashion forward, not just clothes that look pretty for a fleeting span of time. Slow everything down and make it matter.