Fashion critic

One in a series on the clothes having a moment at Paris Fashion Week:


Balmain Fall/Winter 2017 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

PARIS — Designer Olivier Rousteing likes wolves. And that’s a good thing for potential customers who have longed to wear Balmain but have shied away from a fully gilded, fringed, beaded, sausage-casing of a dress.

Rousteing also likes glitter and crystals and crocodile pelts. He prefers larger-than-life models with big personalities, and he allows those personalities to come to life on his runway. When it comes to celebrity, he’s like a heat-seeking missile — able to zero in on the biggest pop-culture fireworks and speak directly to this generation’s batch of connoisseurs.

[Luxury fashion is desperately trying to woo millennials. That’s good for everyone.]

For his fall 2017 collection, Rousteing noted that he was inspired by Nirvana. With its thrift-store style and raw, ferocious sound, the ’90s band would seem to be the antithesis to the ostentatious extravagance that has defined Balmain under his direction.


A closer look at Balmain’s wolf shirt. (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Rousteing was also moved by the idea of the African Serengeti. But he kept to his usual color palette, which always seems to be just a little bit jarring — as if he is challenging the accepted definition of good taste by throwing in the fashion equivalent of junk food.

So consider his fall collection to be a sort of African road trip with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” blaring from the speakers and huge bags of Cheetos and Doritos piled in the back seat of the Range Rover for snacking.


Balmain Fall/Winter 2017 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Balmain Fall/Winter 2017 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Was the collection good? Well, the better question would be: Whom is the collection good for? For a clue, consider two young women who strode into the Thursday afternoon show seemingly for the sole purpose of being photographed by roving lensmen. They strolled the room once. Posed. Circled back. And posed a bit more. They were not wearing Balmain (an editor inquired), but they could have been. One woman’s microdress glittered in the Balmain way, which is to say it looked a bit like a lit-up Christmas tree.

Do you want to be noticed? Photographed? Ogled like a Kardashian in a reality zoo? Yes? Then Balmain was spectacular.


Kendall Jenner walks in the Balmain Fall/Winter 2017 collection. (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

If you define fashion as a discipline rooted in emotional and intellectual tension, something that appeals to the mind as much as it delights the eyes, then Balmain was not so good.

Rousteing has indicated that Balmain will never be subtle or restrained on his watch. It will be big and bold; it will aim to dazzle the eye with the technical prowess of its ateliers.

It will make sure that you are seen. And good for Rousteing.

He understands that too many people live nearly invisible lives. Those who often go unseen are not just the poor and the homeless, immigrants, working class whites, older women and the disabled. Everyone is, in some way, striving to be noticed and applauded. We’re all starring in our own reality show and we fret about the ratings. Are people watching? What can we do to get more viewers? Do people know we are here?


Balmain Fall/Winter 2017 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Balmain Fall/Winter 2017 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Balmain Fall/Winter 2017 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Balmain Fall/Winter 2017 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Balmain Fall/Winter 2017 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

So maybe wear one of his wolf T-shirts. They are probably the best representation of his hybrid of grunge and glamour. Throw on a trim jacket in crocodile — because why not? And a glittering sweater.

Rousteing isn’t replicating the sweater Cobain famously wore on MTV’s “Unplugged,” which later sold at auction for $137,500 — but he is offering up his version of it. It’s blinding. It’s delirious. It’s so very, very much. Just wallow in it. The sweaters and T-shirts also give his customers an option beyond getting trussed in one of his cocktail dresses, armored in crocodile or tricked out in a body-conscious dress that looks like it was constructed from black licorice whips and illusion netting.


One of Rousteing’s riffs on the famous Cobain cardigan, Balmain Fall/Winter 2017 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo For The Washington Post)

This collection didn’t look as heavy as some of Rousteing’s past ones. In previous seasons, his fabrics have been so thick that they’ve added significant heft to his models’ backsides. And no one wants a wider tush.


Balmain Fall/Winter 2017 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

This season, the clothes had more ease, but just as much embellishment — if not an extra helping. They clothes are loud. Deafening even. But the wolves? Sketched out against a black and white mountain on a T-shirt, the wolves are cool.

Also at Paris Fashion Week: 

Comme des Garcons wants you to think about our beauty standards. Really think.

At Off-White, another hot young designer who can’t figure out what to say to women

This designer wants to swaddle you in so many yards of sensual velvet this fall

The bizarre hats at the Rick Owens show were definitely unnerving. In a good way.

Saint Laurent is trying too hard to be sexy, and it’s just not working

You’re afraid of bold prints. Dries Van Noten will help you get over that.