Eleven years ago, Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing was among a throng of fashion- obsessed shoppers who stood in line for the very first H&M designer collaboration collection with Karl Lagerfeld.
How the tables have turned.
Come Nov 5, queues are expected to form for his much-anticipated collaboration with the Swedish fast-fashion giant when the Balmain and H&M collection launches.
Unlike previous designer collaborations that H&M has released, this one-off collection is more than just about re-creating Balmain's aesthetic at more affordable price tags, said Rousteing at a press conference on Tuesday in New York.
Instead, Balmain fans will see that several pieces in the collection are almost exact replicas of pieces that the 30-year-old designer has created in the past for the luxury label.
In true Balmain fashion, the 109-piece collection for women and men features elaborate creations. Those taken from the recent archives include a heavily embellished pearl beaded jacket revived from the fall 2012 collection, woven dresses from fall 2014 and sequinned styles that mirrored those from Rousteing's fall 2013 collection.
These looks were officially revealed by some of the designer's "besties", models-of-the-moment Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid and Joan Smalls, at a by-invite-only fashion show held after the press conference.
Other items in the collection include the brand's signature military-inspired coats, embroidered tops as well as more casual items such as T-shirts and hoodies. The collaboration will also include a fragrance that will be available at selected stores in the United States and Europe from Dec 3.
"Ten years ago, I would watch the fashion shows of the big brands and wish that I could be part of the universe that the designers were building. Today, I just want to make sure that people who follow me and love Balmain can actually have access," said Rousteing, who turned to Instagram to gather input from his 1.4 million followers on which items to reproduce.
He added: "I always say I'm the H&M generation, my first jacket was from H&M. Being part of H&M today is more than being part of fashion, it's about making a statement and sharing your vision with the world."
Calling the collection a highly personal endeavour, he singled out the embellished pearl beaded jacket as his favourite piece in the collection as it is a reminder of how far he has come as a designer.
"The jacket was from my second show five years ago... when I was faced with fear and doubts, all those memories - the stress of my second show - are now locked in this jacket," he said.
Given the elaborate nature of Balmain designs, an H&M spokesman said that prices are higher than previous designer collections. They range from $24.90 for a brass ring to $899 for a sequinned dress, which are still a far cry from the thousands of dollars that Balmain pieces typically fetch. Some of his more embellished pieces go into the five-figure range. They will be available in Singapore at H&M Orchard Building and Ion Orchard.
When asked about the design process for this collection, Rousteing admitted that he had to exercise some restraint by making dresses longer and heels lower than what he was used to.
"I learnt way more than I expected. When you have to keep to a price range, there is a lot you need to do to make sure it is affordable," said Rousteing, whose designs are seen regularly on celebrity friends such as Kim Kardashian and Rihanna.
This partnership with Balmain marks the 11th year of H&M designer collections, which was launched in 2004 to offer a slice of luxury to the masses. After its first collaboration with Lagerfeld, the retailer has gone on to work with designers and brands including Stella McCartney, Roberto Cavalli, Versace, Marni and Isabel Marant.
H&M's creative adviser Ann- Sofie Johansson, who was also at the press conference, said: "It's really nice to choose different designers with different aesthetics to reach out to different groups of customers, but it still has to be someone that we admire and has something relevant for today."
Rousteing noted that far from diluting Balmain's exclusive image, a collection like this serves to refresh the 70-year-old brand by association with H&M's younger customer base.
"H&M is so global. I think it's nice for Balmain to be more global and thanks to this collaboration, we are going to be known in countries where we don't have stores," he said.
The collaboration coincides with his fifth year as creative director of Balmain. He joined the brand in 2009 as a womenswear designer after spending five years as head of ready-to-wear at Roberto Cavalli. In 2011, he was promoted to creative director of Balmain when he was 25, making him the youngest creative director of an established fashion house since the late Yves Saint Laurent, who was 21 when he took over Christian Dior in 1957.
Said Rousteing: "H&M reminded me of who I was at 18 and who I am today. I've realised that I have achieved so much in 10 years. I don't know what is going to be next, but I'm really proud of what I've achieved."
This article was first published on Oct 22, 2015.
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