Olivier Rousteing Of Balmain Tells 'Out' Magazine About Facing Racism & How His Pro-Diversity Stance Is Changing Fashion's Rules
He hangs out with the A-list of the fashion crowd, from Rihanna, to Naomi Campbell, to Kim and Kanye. Now, Balmain's creative director Olivier Rousteing appears on the cover of Out magazine and talks about his creative process, the challenges that he faced growing up adopted and of mixed race, and what it's like for a 29-year-old designer living in the social media age.
“Instagram is selling a dream,” Rousteing said. “My Instagram is my perfect life, and I suck my cheeks in. Of course, I cry and have family or personal problems and am heartbroken, but I don’t need to show that. It makes your life look cooler than it is. My job is to give a happy message about the brand to interest people. But at the same time, I keep it real. I don’t fake my life.”
After moving to Rome at 18 and interning at Robert Cavalli in Milan, Rousteing joined Balmain in 2009 under then-head designer Cristophe Decarnin. Two years later, he was named creative director of the luxury fashion house. Landing a dream job at such a young age might have seemed too good to be true. It was, according to Rousteing, who faced discrimination as soon as the announcement was made.
"People were like, 'Oh my God, he’s a minority taking over a French house,'" Rousteing said. “For me, I’m just French. Yeah, I’m black, but go out into the street — there’s black, white, Chinese, Arab…” The young designer sees racism in all aspects of the industry, not only from personal experience, but also from the overall lack of diversity and unfair treatment of dark-skinned models.
“Look at perfume campaigns,” he said. “You never see black girls, and if you do, they use Photoshop so much that they almost look white. It’s just wrong. People post on my Instagram that they are so happy to see black boys and black girls. I’m happy that they see it and don’t think that fashion belongs to white people." While diversity still has a long way to go in this industry, things are definitely looking up because of talented and inspiring people like Rousteing at the forefront of a new era in fashion.
Visit Out.com for more of Rousteing's interview and check out his Pierre et Gilles photographed cover below: