Olivier Rousteing

Diversity and Inclusivity Championed by Olivier Rousteing at Balmain


Nov. 30 2023, Published 8:23 p.m. ET

In the world of designer fashion, there is this visionary named Olivier Rousteing.

He is the brains behind Balmain, a designer brand that was launched in Paris in 1945. Under Olivier, who took over as the creative director in 2011, Balmain has transformed into one of the most celebrity-loved brands thanks to Rousteing's leadership, and his commitment to diversity.

How did he do it? Keep reading to find out.

Visionary Leader at Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is one of the youngest creative directors at Balmain — taking on the role at 25 years old. At the time, he found himself trying to develop new designs for an old brand that was stuck in tradition. Rousteing's approach was audacious and unapologetic, giving Balmain a contemporary stylishness that connected with new generations and broke away from traditional narrow-mindedness.

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“For me it’s been very important to use clothes to talk about subjects such as diversity and ‘pop’ — pop culture, population,” he told Vogue of his approach. “When I started my Instagram in 2013, I had a meeting with my president, who asked, ‘What are you doing? Luxury on Instagram is impossible. It’s cheap.’ ”

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However, Olivier’s blend of high-end and mass-market has allowed Balmain to stay fresh and expand its appeal into new markets.

Diversity as a Core Value

Inclusivity is one of Olivier’s most important contributions to the fashion world. Refusing to be attacked for its lack of involvement, the designer (adopted at the age of 1) has moved into the mainstream.

Fashion should be like a monument to the world we inhabit, he thinks, and exalt the diversity of life.

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This is the message that Olivier has repeatedly emphasized, hoping that the fashion industry will become more inclusive when it comes to race, body type, and gender identity.

“Honestly, you still count how many colors of people you have in the show? It’s just sad,” he told Vogue. “There is no other word. It’s fashion getting old. Just two black girls? In the whole city? I don’t think it would be the same with blond girls. Diversity should be normal.”

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Under his leadership, Balmain's runway shows are now celebrations of diversity, with models from every part of the world. Yet this deliberate casting of people of various faces and body types not only breaks the industry's norm but also broadcasts a message about diversity.

Besides the runway, Olivier has been working with artists, musicians, and influencers once not accepted in high fashion such as Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé, and Jennifer Lopez.

Breaking Barriers and Shifting Paradigms

Olivier Rousteing has been striving to spread diversity elsewhere besides on the catwalk and in his campaigns. He has been an outspoken critic of the business within the fashion world, breaking down barriers and forcing others to do something different.

He became a member of the Black in Fashion Council, an organization dedicated to combating racism and inequality within the fashion industry. Going along with this effort shows Olivier’s concern about giving the industry a shake.

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While we look to the future and observe whether or not inclusion and diversity can become core ideas for a new fashion landscape, Olivier is at least an explorer who shows this to be possible. His work at Balmain shows that fashion is not to be shackled to the past but pushed beyond the stereotypes.

Olivier’s work as creative director for Balmain is more about rewriting the story of what high fashion can be rather than about designing clothes. Through this rhetoric of diversity and inclusivity, Olivier is contributing not only to beautiful garments but a more representative and accepting fashion scene for the next generations.

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