BalmainFall/Winter 2014 Paris

Runway Review
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2/27/2014 Ed Kavishe/

La mode is a big deal in Paris yet it rarely spark mass hysteria on the streets. Outside Balmain, however, hundreds had gathered on the Rue De Lobau before the show. This crowd was young, prone to screaming, and did not much look to be in the market for a €5,000 minidress.

Once inside the Hotel De Ville an explanation was forthcoming. The pop star Rihanna was on her way. Forty minutes later though, and Rihanna was still not in the building. The photographers - who last week booed Katy Perry when she was late to a show in Milan, began to whistle.

Olivier Rousteing's show began at last, Rihanna-less. It was a perfect collection for her: inspired by military and samurai dress, it mixed animal print with glee and focused on an unabashedly sexy silhouette.
The bamboo heeled shoes duetted with the bamboo hoop earrings, and webbing skirts and tunics were tommy-gunned with perfect lines of metal studs. The dresses made of densely entwined rope tied up you attention and Rosie Huntington-Whitely wore a fitted dress of knotted patent leather whose gold zipper ran from neck, via spine to hem. It was, she reported backstage: "hot".

Rousteing is the youngest designer in charge of a Paris house, and he has been in the position for three years already. Utterly sincere and completely fit for fashion, he looks to be building a powerful following.
Backstage, very very quickly, he said: "I'm going to send a message to the world with fashion. Which is my job. I am not just only doing clothes I am screaming really loudly for freedom and I am using my clothes to make this happen.This collection is all about mixing, it is my new jungle story. All the girls are from everywhere and they are screaming very loudly freedom, and open your mind - it's fashion."

What particular freedoms, though, is Rousteing so screamingly eager to shout about? "Freedom of races, freedom of aesthetics. I'm free to do this job and you are free to wear my clothes. The Balmain woman is is screaming freedom." After this show, she will also be screaming for freebies.

Afterwards, outside, those Rihanna fans mobbed the models in her absence. It turned out, however, that the singer had been parked just around the corner, waiting for the show she'd missed to end so she could congratulate Rousteing. She swept in hidden behind the tinted-glass of her minivan and the screams echoed all the way down Lobau to the Seine.