Fashion houses are in a bit of a bind right now. This moment in time is, of course, unprecedented, and the things we want out of fashion have changed dramatically. But what do we want? Optimism? Pragmatism? Escapism? Designers have each answered that question in their own unique ways during this particularly strange Fashion Month—but Olivier Rousteing’s vision at Balmain was singular and unequivocal: glamour.
At the brands’ spring summer ’21 show, staged in Paris overnight, models wore tuxedo blazers with exaggerated shoulder details and embellished lapels, form-hugging spandex body suits and sparkling Studio 54-esque jumpsuits. Paris Hilton-esque crystal-encrusted party dresses, presented on models barefoot, encapsulated the essence of the collection entirely.
But is the world ready for glamour yet? Granted, Rousteing could hardly be expected to overhaul the entire Balmain aesthetic simply because people are no longer going out the way they used to. In recent years, the brand’s existence has thrived on the kind of quasi-Kardashian, always over-dressed aesthetic that powers Instagram. And the nod to Hilton was strangely timely given the release of her semi self-referential documentary This is Paris earlier this month.
But that exact documentary highlighted, above all else, how hard it is to marry an unapologetic love of extravagance with our current cultural moment. Many countryies are at least discussing the possibility of a second lockdown—and even for those that aren’t, the economic effects of this pandemic are being felt in every corner of the globe. You have to wonder if crystal-studded party dresses are what consumers are after right now. For their SS ’21 show, Valentino—another brand known best for their extravagant event-wear—debuted a collaboration with Levis, which felt like a more prescient symbol of this moment.
Isabel Marant’s show—which also debuted last night, Rousteing was in attendance—made a point of celebrating the many things we loved about partying. Marant was inspired by a “burning desire to go out, dance and escape”, creating a collection inspired by disco-era icons like Debbie Harry. Soundtracked by the ultimate party anthem, Donna Summers’ ‘I Feel Love,’ the show was applauded by many online for its ode to the social life we all so dearly miss.
It’s hard to imagine when we will really be able to party again—to wear silly little sparkly dresses and dance ’til 2AM without a thought spared for masks and Uber restrictions and when we’ll next be able to see our loved ones. But for now, I guess we’ll settle for indulging in the fantasy—it’s probably better than having no fantasy at all.