Every issue, GRAZIA USA highlights Game Changers, who inspire, educate, and celebrate individuality, beauty, and style. Meet Olivier Rousteing, the creative director of Balmain, who’s championing authenticity and community at the heritage french maison.

Last year I reached 10 years at Balmain, and what keeps me inspired every day are challenges. I love doing things that question the world we live in. I started as the creative director at Balmain at 24 years old. I was obviously a baby, and it was a struggle to actually be heard by the older generation because they felt that maybe I wasn’t experienced enough. For example, 10 years ago I was on Twitter, and I remember many people looking at me and thinking that social media wasn’t right for fashion. The same goes for celebrities and musicians, they wanted to keep fashion focused on the elite. I feel I was able to break through the industry and bring this new point of view.

I think a little bit of what has been missing from fashion for so many years, is authenticity and transparency. I didn’t want to be a designer that jumped from one house to another and didn’t add any strong messages. I think my fashion is more than fashion — it’s an impression of the many challenges that myself and so many others have dealt with. But to actually express it in the best way, people need to feel connected to it. That’s why I love showing the world inside my personal life and things outside of highly-produced content. When consumers feel connected to my designs they understand what I am fighting for, and that’s helped not only the business but the community. My clients, they’re part of a community. When they buy Balmain they know that they are going to be part of a world, and I think it’s really important for every designer to communicate in that way.

Read GRAZIA USA’s Fall issue featuring cover star Nicola Peltz Beckham:

Making the jump from idea to execution is one of the most complex things about fashion. It’s not complicated to come up with an idea, it’s the transition of making it a reality that is the true challenge. Take the Balmain Festival, for example. I thought, ‘Why have 300 people in a room to view your collection when you can have 20,000 people? What can I do to help more people who want to see my show actually be there in person?’ I think music is the best outlet to bring together a community because it’s so global, so I followed my own instincts. I love music, I love fashion and I’ve always loved concerts, et voila! I asked myself, ‘Why don’t I create that bridge between fashion and music, and create a sense of inclusivity in fashion?’

For me inclusivity is not only a word, it’s an action. Diversity should span across the business. From casting to the team, it’s about representing marginalized communities by standing up for Black Lives Matter and other minorities. So when my ideas come to reality, they need to have meaning behind them because there is no point in talking without action. My designs are the window of my reality. My designs come with models and silhouettes that I think are really strong. They’re really sharp, so it helps serve as a visual reference to the message I’m trying to get across.

I always have a goal in my life. I know where I want to go, but I don’t necessarily know what direction I’ll take to get there. I tend to add points to map out where I want to go, but at the same time, I always love to be surprised by life and by the different directions it can take me. Ten years ago Balmain wasn’t what it was today, and 10 years from now I can only hope the brand will have even more awareness and visibility on a global scale. I joke and say I think I love not always being satisfied. I’ve always been an unsatisfied person, but that’s what fuels me to always reach higher. Thinking towards the future, I want to get bigger and more international. There’s always
opportunity for growth. We don’t know where our journey will take us, but I want to keep growing what I’ve started at this amazing heritage maison.

With that all being said, making time for myself and escaping the daily grind is also important. It’s the only way to come back refreshed and with a clear mind. I’m an easy escaper. I don’t need to travel to escape, per say. Boxing in the morning, a glass of water at night, watching Netflix, all help me escape. On a daily basis, being in my house and going to bed and dreaming is where I find peace.

— As told to Ty Gaskins

GRAZIA USA’s 2022 Fall issue will be available for purchase on newsstands nationwide in October. Email contact@graziausa.com to subscribe.