Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing Makes a Striking Statement About War — and Peace — at Paris Fashion Week

With Russia’s intensifying attacks on Ukraine top of mind at Paris Fashion Week, designers are making statements on and off the runway. Some are subtle, others more striking.

At Balmain, the message was clear from the top. Olivier Rousteing opened his fall ’22 women’s and men’s Balmain show in the Marais on Thursday evening with an interpretive dance group depicting soldiers going to battle. But after a few minutes, the performance took a dramatic turn. The two leads kissed, illustrating a peaceful resolution.

“I very much wish that the message behind Balmain’s fall ’22 designs had not become so relevant, so timely,” wrote Rousteing in his show notes.

The collection, conceived last year, was actually designed in response to what Rousteing called his “not-always-pleasurable” experiences on social media.

The designer, who sustained serious injuries after a fireplace explosion in 2020, grappled with his role as the public face of a Parisian house and his private battles as he recovered from crippling burns. Once he decided to go public, he feared shaming online — a familiar feeling in a digital world that is becoming more and more toxic.

Rousteing’s reaction to that feeling — facing it head on — translated into a collection defined by distinctive silhouettes designed to convey a sense of safety and protection.

Balmain Fall '2
Models turned warriors at Balmain fall ’22 at Paris Fashion Week.

In the footwear world, nothing shouts strength like the sturdy platform, a focal point across many collections again for fall. Balmain’s thick-soled boot styles for men and women were so high that a few models stumbled as they walked down the runway. Thigh-high boots with sharp stiletto heels were also in focus, while some of the ankle boots had thick protective straps.

In the ready-to-wear collection, the designer played with contrasting material pairings — delicate lace with metal and neoprene — and outfitted models with protective wraps and shields.

In his show notes, Rousteing made it clear he wasn’t comparing his own struggles to the gravity of a war, but he had a message that was relevant to these times. “United in solidarity, we can rely on the power of hope and truth to push back against hate, lies and aggression.”

A model walks the runway during the Balmain Womenswear Fall/Winter 2022/2023 show as part of Paris Fashion Week at Carreaux du Temple in Paris, France on March 02, 2022. Photo by Aurore Marechal/Abaca/Sipa USA(Sipa via AP Images)
Sturdy platform boots were in focus at Balmain ’22.

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