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Last night marked the runway launch of H&M’s designer collaboration with Balmain, which I have been extensively coveting covering. Celebrities such as Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Diane Kruger filled the front rows at the shows New York venue, which was live streamed (on a pretty dodgy connection) via Periscope. Zachary Quinto and model boyfriend Miles McMillan were a particularly cute coupling, as were Kylie Jenner and Teen Vogue editor Amy Astley as they paused for selfies – #reuinted!

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The staging was an excellent use of neon purple stairs twisting and splitting in two leading to the runway, setting the scene as an 80s discofunk club. The models, including Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid and Jourdan Dunn, descended the steps in higher-than-heaven heels with a sort of ease not seen in recent catwalks. Rather than a blank-faced horde of pallid models shuffling down the runway, the Balmain Army served attitude, confidence and manoeuvrability – these clothes may be elaborate, but they sure don’t look restricting. Perfect then, for heading straight to the club. A strong 80s current ran through the clothes, from the power shoulders on everything from bodycon dresses to jackets, to parachute pants in luxe, silky blacks. And what a lot of blacks there were! Midnight, silky darkness served as the background to pops of brightness provided by accessories in primary colours. Heavy yellow and gold is a highlight too, breaking up the black with a luxe (and somewhat in-bad-taste) twist. The women looked powerful, with 10-foot tall legs elongated by knee-high boots, exuding a determination to get down and dance. Head to toe crimson red is a rare break of theme, offering a more romantic and louche take on Balmain’s structured silhouettes.

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The hair gleamed almost as much as the gold embellishments; blonde tresses, styled with one side casually tucked behind an ear in bouncing voluminous waves, were the standout beauty note of the night. The embellishments themselves on the other hand, Balmain’s calling card, were as perfectly done as would be expected from Rousteing. Dresses, jackets and shirts literally shone in the light, throwing off a myriad of sparkles. Us men get a look in too, namely in the form of a gold encrusted jacket lapel-less jacket. Waist-clinching belts over tux jackets are also a fresh style choice for the mens looks, giving razor sharp silhouettes (although the effectiveness of this on non-models is yet to be seen). For men the look is strong, classic, athletic and militant all at the same time. Imagine a gay army captained by Rousteing, beating the opposition with the sheer blinding fabulousness of their outfits, and you have an idea.

The collection doesn’t feel like a distilled, dampened down Balmain offering, nor a repeat of past favourites; this is high-octane Balmain glamour at its finest. It feels loyal to brand, yet fresh and totally of the moment. Props to Olivier Rousteing and H&M for what will surely be a sell-out collaboration.

– Thomas Marrington


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