The ’80s are back as Olivier Rousteing creates a bold Spring collection with retro staples

“It’s Paris meets Egypt,” said Olivier Rousteing before his Balmain Spring 2019 RTW runway show. “I think it’s really important to mention that so much of the beauty of Paris is in its history, and its history is not only what we call French.” Egypt is a significant part of the visual dialect of postcolonial Parisian architecture thanks in part to Napoleon Bonaparte.

Rousteing returns every season to Paris as the prime inspiration for his collections. By exploring the identity of the French capital, the designer features Egyptian flavor, with key symbols, foundations, of La Patrimoine de Paris et de Rousteing: Marinière stripes; bourgeois bouclé jackets; assertive tailoring with hard Balmain shoulders.

Cara Delevingne opened the show in a gleaming beaten-metal bodice—fantasy Cleopatra attire—as she sang along to “When Doves Cry.” There were sexy jeans and dresses in ribbons of wrapped, draped, and distressed muslin. Rousteing called the bags coffres—coffers—like mini sarcophagi for the internment of deep, dark Balmain-girl secrets. Pyramids were reimagined in plexiglass panels of different colors that went into the construction of hard, fierce, creatively rich, and invariably high-hemmed dresses. White triple organza, stiffened and rippling with pleat, was used in extreme, sculptural shapes—fanned in huge arcs around the body or across the shoulder—as both reference to kalasiris and art. Black woolen tops and skirts were inscribed with white hieroglyphs.

This was a super-defined Balmain collection from a designer whose journey of self-discovery, and whose exploration of identity, is being played out in digital real time.

Watch as Cara Delevingne walks us backstage at the Balmain Spring 2019 Womenswear show.