What a sight to behold if his sculptural, iridescent turquoise gown, with its quivering 3D scales resembling crocodile skin, were to glide across the desert at golden hour with the Great Pyramids as a backdrop?
Rousteing finished his latest Egypt-inspired effort last May but ultimately decided to withhold imagery until its retail release this month. While his pre-collection includes plenty of knits, which now account for 40 percent of Balmain’s ready-to-wear business, the designer also met customer demand for exceptional couture pieces.
September 28th 2022, Okhtein’s x Balmain’s collaborative piece was unveiled at the Balmain SS23 runway show, held at the Stade Jean Bouin, a stadium in the 16th arrondissement in Paris. The fashion show was part of what the French brand calls its ‘Balmain Festival’ marking the third of its kind in this fashion, food and fun extravaganza lasting the whole day. In fact, the stadium was filled with activities and retitled the Balmain Festival Village for the occasion.
Okhtein, meaning ‘sisters’ in Arabic, encapsulates the spirit of two Egyptian sisters Mounaz and Aya. The sisters wanted to highlight their heritage, crafting their bags meticulously embedding their love for art, jewellery and story-telling. They learnt all the necessary skills from local craftsmen and workshops, to introduce their unique aesthetic into the fashion world in order to redefine the modern Arab women and all the stereotypes that accompany.
Balmain presented a collection inspired by the rebirth and rediscovery of the beauty of the Renaissance, highlighting how ancient masterpieces can be adapted to modern times. Essentially, the rediscovery and celebration of the Renaissance’s beauty is demonstrated through details and silhouettes that channel the spirit, art, and sculpture of that golden age’s greatest thinkers.
Rousteing has made his Balmain fashions increasingly autobiographical, and linked to his missions. While his runway blowout for spring 2023 during Paris Fashion Week, the one featuring Cher, put the spotlight on the designer’s sustainability ambitions, his use of rustic, natural fabrics including linen and organic cotton started with this pre-collection, employed for tailoring and languid pajama-style dressing.
The merging of these elements depict the rebuilding of ancient masterpieces into a wonderful relic, to echo the inspiration of Rousteing’s SS23 collection.
Bravo to the Balmain atelier for its patience and skill embroidering micro beads so fine that the shoulders of his gowns look shaped from polished grains of sand. There was also painstaking draping and knotting techniques applied to the T-shirts and jersey gowns, among the more accessible and affordable looks in this vast and diverse collection.
The cuts in the bustier indicate a worn-out appearance, and the resin in its natural color is a striking material that innately gives the look and feel of alabaster.
Following a similar route, the sisters incorporated a snake brass bangle, a distinct signature element from their ‘bangle bag’ onto the bustier, keeping the natural colour of the resin, and cuts placed to show a worn-out look replicating the texture of an alabaster. This further clarifies Rousteing’s contrasting vision of the antiquity and modern combined, signifying the revival of the Renaissance. The sisters stated “this piece was the most challenging project for both of us, however we found it as an opportunity to push ourselves as designers and product developers.”
Rousteing noted that founder Pierre Balmain referenced Egyptian culture in the 1950s, so this ancient civilization is also part of the brand lore. “I love Egypt because there’s maximalism and minimalism, and the contrast is incredible,” he enthused.
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