How Olivier Rousteing's Instagram Nous has Changed the Game for Balmain

While His Spring/Summer 2016 collection was presented to an almost universally negative reception from the collected fashion media, whose opinions were long considered the final word on the general perception of a collection. Teeth bared and knives sharpened, they contemptuously scorned his sexed-up 70s vision, frantically jotting notes and cynical similes which would form the basis of their reviews ready to hit newsstands in the following days.

As these lofty fashion critics returned to their hotel rooms and rented logements across Paris, Olivier wiled away the night, across Paris at Lapérouse - a period restaurant, in a Louis VX era property on the rive gauche of the Seine. There, Olivier hosted a private post-runway party for his closest celebrity friends. Surrounded by Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and Insta-famous Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, Olivier Previously panicked by the reception his Spring-Summer showing would receive, Olivier needn't have worried. Live-streamed across the world, and watched by millions on social media in the minutes that followed, the collection was already heralded as a veritable success by the followers of both he and his fashion acolytes.

Olivier, you see, is not a low-key designer, determined to lead an unassuming  life far outside the spotlight - quite the opposite in fact. He relishes the attention and networking opportunities his position affords him. with the elite of global celebrity by his side, Olivier has propelled himself to the forefront of fashion's great stage - far more visible and recognisable to the Millennial generation than Hedi Slimane or even Karl Lagerfeld.

Balmain who once insisted on control of his social media accounts, have since gladly forfeited all decisions to Olivier, who has assumed the role of curator and creative director of his Instagram account - which has long since surpassed one million followers. Balmain adore him - the reviews may be getting worse with every season, but the publicity generated by Olivier's masterful networking and social media nous has comfortably drowned out the voices of the naysayers. 

Before even the most expedient reviewer had completed their review and sent the resulting article to press, Olivier will have already posted a multitude of collection snaps to his personal Instagram, where they will have amassed tens of thousands of likes - a number which will rise exponentially of course, if his celebrity friends such as Kendall or Gigi happen to appear in said designs.

Morever, his celebrity cohorts are not bashful about regramming his snaps, or creating their own in Olivier's designs - the hashtag "balmainarmy" has become a global phenomenon. Olivier believes in a populist democratisation of fashion, in which popularity will count for more than the rumblings of critics. On this point, he recently remarked:

“I can speak straight to my Balmain army, instantly, and I am making fashion for them",“It is too bad for critics if they cannot understand this, but the truth is now that their critiques do not matter.”

Fashion is ultimately an industry, and like any industry it is pragmatic to its core - notwithstanding an external veneer of artistic pretension. Exposure, tacit endorsements and popularity guarantee results.

The results of Olivier's democratisation are plain to see - previously an exclusively Parisian label, the brand has recently opened boutique in New York and London, with more to follow in Los Angeles, Macua, Doha and Dubai. Swedish high-street retailer H&M, sensing the commercial potential that designs from such a prominent fashion influencer would have at a lower pricepoint, were quick to suggest a collaboration.

The release of resulting collection created literal riots, as those unable to afford mainline Balmain, jostled almost primevally in order to be the first to buy the clothes seen on their Insta-Icons. This partnership had an additional marketing benefit - exposing Balmain to a greater audience, as the greater financial might of H&M enabled a slew of television commercials, billboard advertising and magazine advertising. The critics may not love Olivier, but Balmain certainly do.


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