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Balmain—for those who may have missed the recent swarm of #HMBalmaination campaigns on billboards, in the subway, on TV, and all over social media—recently partnered with H&M on a new collection that launches in stores today, created by Balmain’s Creative Director Olivier Rousteing, alongside H&M’s Creative Advisor Ann-Sofie Johansson.
The collaboration was announced—similarly to when Alexander Wang addressed the public at Coachella—at the Billboard Music Awards, with his Balmain Army hand-in-hand, and head-to-toe, in the new Balmain for H&M collection. (Within the past year, Rousteing’s close-knit circle of Balmain beauties have included top models like Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Jourdan Dunn, Alessandra Ambrioso, Lily Aldridge, Devon Windsor, and Dudley O’Shaughnessy.)
At a press conference in New York on October 20 for the collection, Vogue’s Nicole Phelps led a discussion with Rousteing and Johansson regarding the partnership take-over and that night’s fashion show.
“It was my dream come true, because I’m an H&M generation boy. For me, [being] apart of the H&M store, it’s an honor, it’s a privilege, it’s something that celebrates the vision and the aesthetic,” said Rousteing. “When H&M calls you to ask you aesthetic and your vision in the store, you’re just like ‘Wow, this is a big achievement for a designer.’ I’m really, really proud to be apart of it, and thank you again to H&M for making it happen.”
Smiling, Johansson said, “Olivier is a fantastic designer of course, and he achieved so many great things at Balmain. And, you know, we have a wish list of designers we would like to collaborate with…and we also get a lot of questions from my customers that, well, demand really, for who to collaborate with next—and you’re also one of the top names there. So we were super happy to have met you, and that Balmain said yes.” She continued, “It’s also sort of opposite with what we had last year with Wang—really sporty and street. And now we’re having a very opulent, glamorous, and sexy collection.”
In regards to this “Balmain Nation,” Phelps asked why unity was the main message, and why it was so integral to this collaboration. Rousteing said it was a nation that believed in “the Balmain universe, and the DNA of Balmain,”—regardless of your age, where you come from, or your budget for new clothing. It is, as Rousteing said, “a real nation with a real vision. I think that the collection is really strong, but also, what we are building around the collection is really strong. And I think that’s why I wanted to build the #HMBalmaination.”
When H&M approached Balmain, Rousteing said, “Balmain is couture. Balmain is craftsmanship. Balmain is a luxury French house, but Balmain is also me—that is 30, grown up in pop culture, loves dance, loves music, loves Pop—and so, with H&M, we find a way to mix everything.”
Later that night, inside of 23 Wall Street, the debut event included a multimedia collection experience and a multi-level dance and fashion show. The night started in the main entrance, decked out with digital screens, futuristic displays, and a red carpet graced by the likes of Karlie Kloss, Gigi and Bella Hadid, and Kendall and Kylie Jenner. Next, we moved upstairs for the main event, the runway show, which began with a screening of a futuristic dance starring Kendall Jenner inside of a subway, played on a variety of anchored TVs throughout the venue. As the lights faded down, the night’s thumping soundtrack began to play, and the models began to walk.
One by one, the looks charged by, and dancers were arranged in groups before and after the models to present prevalent modern day, and contortion-like, dances. Looks consisted of luxurious fabrics of black, gold, red, green, blue, and white. There were glimpses of black velvet, gold and white beading, knee-high suede boots, bedazzled clutches, and chunky, eye-catching jewelry. A variety of gold necklaces and bracelets complemented black chandelier earrings, patent leather boots shined against blowout velvet dresses and scarves, and backpacks and purses took a turn to be seen too. There were slouchy pants, structured tuxedo jackets, nighttime dresses, and military jeans within the jaunt of an hour.
To conclude the show’s finale, Rousteing welcome the Backstreet Boys to the floor, and guests rose from their seats, camera in hand, to take in the pop culture spectacle. The 12-year-old boy band sang favorites like “Rock Your Body,” “I Want It That Way,” and “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).” Confetti clouded the open spaces, and the models danced their way backstage with the musicians.
Wish lists were made, videos were posted, and selfies on set were snapped, but the night was far from over. As the guests made their way down to the main entrance, there was a pop-up shop in the basement welcoming first-time shoppers access into the collection. Waiting in line, you were handed a Balmain happy meal, complete with a black box containing a classic burger and French fries.
H&M has done 19 designer collaborations in the past—Karl Lagerfeld, as the first, and Alexander Wang, the most recent. But what is different about this collection is that it felts like more of a social movement, a multimedia experience, and a cultural happening. Welcome to #HMBalmaination.