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Olivier Rousteing was named Balmain’s creative director ten years ago, when he was still only in his mid-twenties. But Rousteing — who was adopted as a child and grew up believing he was of mixed-race parentage — says he always felt like he was performing a role to fit in amongst the French fashion elite. Recently, he decided to try and find his birth parents to give him a greater understanding of his identity, and allowed a documentary crew to film the process. In the process, Rousteing discovered his Somalian and Ethiopian heritage. The resulting film, “Wonder Boy,” came out last year, and arrived on Netflix in June.
The experience has made him want to be more open about his identity. “You knew the designer for many years and now you are going to know the human being behind that,” he says.
This week on The BoF Podcast, BoF’s editor-at-large Tim Blanks speaks with Rousteing about connecting with his personal history, the power of community and why timelessness in fashion is vital today.
Rousteing said he hopes his personal journey will help provide inspiration for young creatives from diverse backgrounds hoping to make it in fashion. “I think I am the new France,” says Rousteing. “I think this is the message that I am delivering to people… This is my mission to give some hope in breaking boundaries.”
In his decade at the helm, Rousting has brought a new approach to Balmain’s customers, too. “What I wanted to do during this decade is to make sure that there was awareness of the brand,” said Rousteing. “So, my first step was to create a strong community of people listening to the name of Balmain.”
The pandemic has made Rousteing rethink his approach to design. “I think what is trendy is not cool anymore,” said Rousteing. “You want to buy values and you want to buy timeless [products] and you want to feel that what you get is something that will stay in time.”