Sunday, October 1, 2023

Watch: Olivier Rousteing on Being a Black Designer & Why He’ll ‘Always Fight For Diversity’

Top designer and creative director at luxury fashion house Balmain, Olivier Rousteing has been busy changing the world with his fashion and his fight for diversity – something he’s been spied talking to CNN about this week.

The talent is seen talking on his “not so successful start” in life, having been given up for adoption by his biological parents, before being adopted as a 1-year-old – the designer saying;

“…My parents are white and they [chose] me – I think it’s a beautiful act of love.”

baby Balmain

Explaining how his ethnicity lead him to a career in fashion, Rousteing said;

“I realised that I was different around 11 years old. I think from this moment I said ‘I’m gonna fight for diversity.’

I didn’t know where I come from and I still don’t know. With fashion I could identify myself to something.”

Diversity has always been in my mind but I didn’t know  when I was young that I could talk about it, that it could be a topic that could be my strength. Whatever I do… diversity is something that’s always been part of my mind but it’s something that I assume more an more as an adult and discovering myself day after day.”

Armando and Fernando Cabral for Balmain's Autumn/Winter'15 campaign
Armando and Fernando Cabral for Balmain’s Autumn/Winter’15 campaign

Having made a success of taking a traditional label into modern times, integrating Balmain online and with a much younger audience, Olivier has also made progress in promoting diversity in the industry, using models of various backgrounds in his campaigns and on his catwalks – with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West having starred in the Spring/Summer’15 menswear campaign; Rihanna fronting the Spring/Summer’14 campaign; and models like Ysaunny Brito, Joan Smalls, Armando Cabral and Gigi Hadid all spied among the lineup of muses.


On this ethnically-diverse vision, Rousteing explained;

“I work in fashion and people think modernity is about clothes, but I think the real modernity is diversity.

The aesthetic of my clothes is really important but the aesthetic of the world, of the vision that I have – this diversity that I want push – is way more stronger than my collection.

Kim Kardashian stars in Balmain's Spring/Summer'15 menswear ads, with husband Kanye West
Kim Kardashian stars in Balmain’s Spring/Summer’15 menswear ads, with husband Kanye West

I wannna dress different girls, different woman – in the casting, the models, on my front row… I think that’s why I chose all those [muses] that are different, that are modern. For example Kim – she’s powerful, she represents a new family also.

I feel like sometimes we forget that the present and the future is way more inspiring than the past.”


The short film concludes with a hint at what the designer hopes to achieve, with Olivier adding;

“I really, really hope that I am in a way changing some mentalities. I’m a black designer [in] a really traditional and luxuy old house – I think it’s a really positive message.

I would love that fashion [also push] those boundaries. Diversity should be a topic for [all] creative people. It’s the future of fashion, it is something that’s part of me and it’s something that I will always fight for.”

Team SPICE continue to admire this man’s vision and his navigation through – and steering of – changing times in the industry. But watch the full short film on Olivier Rousteing and his fight for diversity here and let us know what you think to his vision of the future.

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