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Balmain’s Creative Director Olivier Rousteing is Doing Representation in Fashion Well

Photo: Mario Sorrenti/Balmain Fall/Winter 2014

Photo: Mario Sorrenti/Balmain Fall-Winter 2014

As someone who writes about social issues, it seems quite natural to point out certain problems in the world that feel marginalizing to certain groups of people. Now, doing so is tricky for me.  I love fashion – I research it extensively. I tune in every season in February and September to browse through marvelous collections that are created by much smaller brands such as Vetements or huge Parisian fashion-power-houses such as Chanel – or in the context of this post, Balmain. I enjoy doing it, I always have.

However, with the rise of attention on the lack of diverse runways, we’ve become so used to only paying attention to brands such as [insert designer with an a**hole casting director] who really don’t care about certain communities of people. But that leads to ask: what about designers that do bring black women into their entourage of posing-queens? Don’t they get some sort of credit for attempting and successfully achieving to bring light to fierce black models that are thrown to the end of the line for the color of their skin?

With that being said, this isn’t some sort of plea to run to any designer with a fair amount of representation, begin kissing their feet and continually thank them for doing something that should’ve never been a problem in the first place. But I do, however, think that we need to pay attention to those who do – like Olivier Rousteing.

Photo: Mario Sorrenti/Balmain Fall-Winter 2015

Photo: Mario Sorrenti/Balmain Fall-Winter 2015

Balmain’s creative director, Olivier Rousteing, has – in collaboration with top stylists and photographers – created seasonal campaigns that showcase the music superstars such as Rihanna and Kanye West or legendary supermodels such as Naomi Campbell and Iman. Or, for example, take the action-packed panoramic campaign for the Olivier Rousteing x Nike Lab collaboration – photographed by Nick Knight – which included a majority of black models athletically posing. It was something new to me; I hadn’t seen anything so beautiful in a long time.

In May he told Cody Horne from HYPEBEAST, “I’m black, my parents are white, and this has always been a topic that’s really important to me. I want this topic to be important in fashion because diversity is not a strong topic today.”

And continued by saying, “A lot of people come up to me and say, “Oh my god, your casting is so diverse.” I think to myself, “We are in 2016 and you still think this is diverse!” Clearly, there is something wrong here. I shouldn’t wake up and see that I’m black or white. We should just wake up and not feel different. This has to change and this is what I’m trying to do because it makes me really sad.”

Although Olivier designs the same thing every season – basically just changes fabrics/colors – and uses the image of the Kardashians to keep Balmain in the news there’s no denying that his campaigns are one of the most beautiful images that I’ve seen in recent years. So props, Olivier, for creating gorgeous campaigns and using people of color while doing it.

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Fernando Reyes
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High-school teenager with interests in fashion, writing and film.

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