Humberto Leon and Carol Lim aren't the only ones in the hot seat this season. After the sudden departure of Christophe Decarnin last season, the reins at Balmain have been placed in the hands of 25 year-old newbie, Olivier Rousteing and the pressure is on. Balmain is big business so there's not much room for newcomer's errors, especially during these precarious economic times. That said, Rousteing did well.
Having worked under Decarnin for the past two years, it to be expected that the collection would not steer too far from what we've seen in the past. Jackets were the centre of attention, naturally, coming in embroidered gold and white styles - a colour palette that popped up throughout the collection. Dresses and skirts remained super short and the tops tucked into belted trousers continued the aesthetic that Decarnin and Emmanuelle Alt mastered. But he did introduce some new elements like a subtle floral print on dresses and small additions like the use of wide length trousers added a more classy feeling compared to the OTT and over-exposed style that they've been churning out for the last few seasons.
But the biggest challenge for Rousteing is moving the brand forward and that's not an easy task. While their 80s jackets, over-expensive denim and embellishments worked really well two or three seasons ago, there's quickly feeling dated and samey so if Balmain wants to remain a frontrunner, we'll have to see something different and soon.
We all fell in love with those pronounced jackets and distressed denim jeans at Balmain but unfortunately that's the most that many people did - simply admire them from afar. With t-shirts coming in at a whopping $1,625 and those statement jackets costing $10,000, the collections were only reserved for the elite customer.
Balmain's high prices have not come without great criticism over the years. Back in April Robin Givhan most notably slammed the brand arguing that: "The cost of his fully bedazzled mini-dresses could reach well into tens of thousands of dollars, easily making a couture client hyperventilate. His tailored jackets, though beautifully cut, were also a king's ransom at $10,000." She continued: "In fairness, some of the prices could be explained by the skill put into the cutting and the elaborate beadwork - one Prince-inspired collection, for example, featured frock coats lacquered in gold sequins. But Decarnin's tattered jeans and t-shirts were equally as expensive - think $1,000 for an artfully torn tank top...There is no justification for that sort of pricing other than it exploited one of the worst marketing tactics in the fashion industry."
But it looks like the brand has taken the fierce criticism on board as they have announced that they are launching a secondary 'affordable' line called Pierre Balmain. If the news excites you as much as us, you will be even more happy to know that the sources allege the line will be made available as soon as September.
Balmain has announced its head designer, and as rumours implied, Olivier Rousteingwill takeChristophe Decarnin's place. Rousteing has led the label's women's wear studio since 2009, when he joined the company after five years at Roberto Cavalli.
As for Decarnin, reports say he's been gone from Balmain since early this year, and it's speculated that he was admitted to a mental hospital. Decarnin was notably absent from his Fall '11 show in Paris this March. It's unclear whether Rousteing had a large hand in that show - and it's yet to be seen whether he'll keep Decarnin's signature shredded and sparkly designs at the forefront of the brand.
Now that Christophe Decarnin is out at Balmain, after rumours of the designer's mental distress, it's expected that the label's new designer will be announced within a day or two. Stylist Melanie Ward, who took over for Emmanuelle Alt at the brand, was initially suspected to be the front runner for the job, but now British Elle has other thoughts.
According to the magazine: "'They’re going to choose someone unknown,’ our source said. ‘Christophe was an unknown when he came to Balmain, and the owners want to support lesser-known design talent.'" It'll be interesting to see whether the ripped t-shirt formula Decarnin became so known for will remain after a change in command.
Certainly, the fashion industry - as a purveyor of beauty ideals, fine craftsmanship, and creativity - is better off without the aesthetic that he and Balmain popularized...The cost of his fully bedazzled mini-dresses could reach well into tens of thousands of dollars, easily making a couture client hyperventilate. His tailored jackets, though beautifully cut, were also a king's ransom at $10,000. In fairness, some of the prices could be explained by the skill put into the cutting and the elaborate beadwork - one Prince-inspired collection, for example, featured frock coats lacquered in gold sequins. But Decarnin's tattered jeans and t-shirts were equally as expensive - think $1,000 for an artfully torn tank top. And no, he did not come to clients' homes himself with a pair of shears to do the snipping to their personal specifications. There is no justification for that sort of pricing other than it exploited one of the worst marketing tactics in the fashion industry. Balmain's jeans and t-shirts reeked of the most grotesque prestige pricing.
Christophe Decarnin is out at Balmain, according to a statement from the brand. The former head designer was notably absent from the Fall '11 show, and Cathy Horyn says he might have left as early as the start of the year. It's rumoured that Decarnin barely talked to the company CEO towards the end of his stint, and sources have suggested he might have been in a mental hospital at show time.
Horyn believes Decarning "hit some kind of personal impasse and lost control of the label." She adds: "Balmain’s success in the Decarnin years was based on a relatively simple formula of impeccably tailored jackets, tough pants, t-shirts and sexy beaded dresses - all for staggering sums - and Mr. Decarnin may have felt stuck in recent months about his direction. Designers are indeed under a lot of pressure, some of it self-imposed, to create relevant collections. Shy and introverted, with a label that had its admirers and critics, Mr. Decarnin may have been more vulnerable than others to that pressure."
The designer's successor hasn't been announced yet, but it's thought that his replacement will be someone from inside Balmain. Melanie Ward, a stylist who formerly worked at Helmut Lang, is rumoured to be at the top of the list. She took over Emmanuelle Alt's consulting and styling job at the label when Alt left to helm Vogue Paris.
Over the last few years Balmain has become synonymous with Emmanuelle Alt. After all, it's her cool rock chic aesthetic and styling skills that helped propel the brand back into the spotlight. However, since she was appointed editor of Vogue France we all know that her partnership with the brand would come to an end.
Christophe Decarnin hasn't wasted any time finding a replacement and has just announced that Melanie Ward - well known for her work at Helmut Lang - will take Alt's role and style the brand's fall collection next month.
Kanye West has allegedly brought Christophe Decarnin on board to design his outfits for his upcoming tour.The news definitely comes as surprise especially as many were expecting the singer to collaborate with Alber Elbaz for Lanvin after meeting him at a fashion event recently.
According to Hint, West has Decarnin remaking looks from Balmain's fall 2010 collection and according to their sources, we can expect to see lot of seventies-style pantsuits, gilded jeans and cutaway coats.
The rumours that Stefano Pilati is on his way out at YSL are continuing, but that's just the beginning of the fashion drama that's swirling post-fashion month. First, for Stefano. According to Hint mag, the designer actually just signed a contract for three more years at the helm of the label. Hint also hears that Hedi Slimade, Christophe Decarnin and Raf Simons were previously approached to take Pilati's job, but they declined because Yves Saint Laurent's partner, Pierre Bergé, wants simply to shut down the label.
According to Hint (via The Cut): "He'd rather see it killed and the legacy remain untouchable, observed only from afar through exhibitions, films, auctions, etc. As his foundation still controls the YSL archives, he can and does make life difficult for whomever wants a closer look at the house's DNA. Furthermore, while the CEO of YSL is an excellent businesswoman, she is, as they say, a ball-breaker. So the job isn't a walk in the park, to say the least."
That's stage one of the rumours. Now, for the musical chairs. Hint is holding onto rumours we've heard before stating that Karl Lagerfeld's imminent departure from Chanel will set into motion a real shake-up among design houses. Supposedly, when Lagerfeld celebrates his 30th year at Chanel in 2012, he'll retire with a bang. From there, Hint suggests, Alber Elbaz from Lanvin will step into his role, and Olivier Theyskens (whom we always root for) will fill the gap at Lanvin. The more the rumblings stick around, the more they make sense. But take notes. It might be hard to keep up for the next few years.
It was no coincidence that multiple versions of Frank Sinatra's "My Way" cranked through the stereo at Christophe Decarnin's Balmain show this season in Paris. For a number of collections, we've been seeing his reiterations of all things studded, slashed and blazer-topped, and even when the fashion world is stepping into minimalism, Decarnin is sticking to what he does best. Looking for a way to bring the punk movement to this decade? Now you've found it.
The designer used couture techniques to rough up his garments (the blazers he likes so much were safety-pinned in custom fits to their models), and he continued the disarray with ripped jeans, hole-speckled tees and ripped tights. Craving some sex appeal? Don't worry: he didn't forget the bustiers. In terms of colour and print, Decarnin seemed a fan of red (including some stars and stripes on Freja Beha Erichsen), a morphed tie-dye and paint splatters. This season, the designed continued doing what he loves, and we're sure there are legions of Balmainiacs ready to drop tens of thousands on his newest pieces.