Balmain Serves Grunge with a Side of Savagery for Fall Winter/2017

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The recherché Balmain woman was rewritten as a kind of rebellious warrior queen with a predatory lust for finery.

“Here we are now, entertain us,” Kurt Cobain’s snarling refrain in “Smells Like Teen Spirit” poured from the speakers at Balmain, and Olivier Rousteing delivered. The cross-pollination of “Nirvana on a road trip through the Serengeti, the Far West and Amazonia,” depicted by both the show notes and the runway looks meant the recherché Balmain woman was rewritten as a kind of rebellious warrior queen with a predatory lust for finery.

Cobain’s notorious anti-establishment and anti-authoritarian values are fundamentally at odds with the celebrity and consumerism peddled by high-end fashion, but the grunge movement he started has made a lasting mark, regardless. Grunge bucks the system, preferring secondhand clothing, instruments, and idealism as its arsenal of choice. Rousteing wanted to channel some of that rebellion, but thankfully, he did it without harping on tired 90s trends. Instead, he plucked wolf-themed scenery from a New Mexico truck stop tee – the kind of thrift store find that would have thrilled a grunge kid – and patchworked it with reptile skins, goatskin, chains, and studs. Models played the part of Glamazons with corn-rowed hair, smoky eyes, and mile-high boots. By blending kitsch, extraordinary craftsmanship, and aggressive styling, he ended up with a new look that still read Balmain.

Balmain Fall/Winter 2017
Photo: Courtesy of WGSN

A note on patchwork: it’s been big on the Fall/Winter 2017 runways so far, but Balmain took it to another level. Complicated looks bore dozens of different types of animal skin, embellishment, and woven textures – from rattan to tweed. They were pieced together in a raw way, resembling the kind of tattered scraps early women might have worn during the Stone Age. For instance, a single tunic was made with rattan weave, leather patches, grommets, and fringe made from thin strips of reptile skin leather and chains, while another look boasted sheaves of goat skin pricked with tiny metal studs.

By blending kitsch, extraordinary craftsmanship, and aggressive styling, Rousteing ended up with a new look that still read Balmain.

Some looks reached mythic proportions, literally, as Rousteing wound the image griffins around dresses, filled with glittering sequins for extra visual stimulation. One got so accustomed to the ferocious, smoldering aesthetic that a polished finale of leather looks felt jarring. Unable to resist one last chance at theatrics, Rousteing finished on a barbaric, but stunning, note as Kendall Jenner came stalking down the runway wearing an uncut crocodile hide, the tail whipping ferociously around her legs. Cobain would be rolling in his grave to know he inspired Balmain’s Fall/Winter 2017 collection. Perhaps, however, he might warm to its savage side.

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