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Olivier Rousteing and Jennifer Lopez
Olivier Rousteing and Jennifer LopezPhotography Nicolas Moore, via

Why Balmain is feminist, according to Olivier Rousteing

The designer talks race, that Marc Jacobs nude selfie and why Balmain is all about female empowerment

He took over a major fashion house at the tender age of 25, he’s got over a million followers on Instagram and he’s best friends with Rihanna. Yes, Olivier Rousteing has got a lot going for him. Since taking over Balmain, the Dazed 100 designer has injected the house with a lethal, money-making combination of high-voltage glamour, pop culture and a crew of diverse “really strong” women, including Dazed cover star Kendall Jenner. Now, in a new interview with Paper magazine, Rousteing talks to Amina Akhtar and his friend Jennifer Lopez about feminism, race and that Marc Jacobs selfie.

“For me, Balmain is almost feminist,” he says. “It’s about the power of girls and women in the world...All the muses that have inspired me are really strong and they sometimes fight against the world to show their own rules...when I think, ‘What is the Balmain girl?’ it’s this. It’s a woman who knows what she wants and is going to express it.” 

“What is the Balmain girl? It’s a woman who knows what she wants and is going to express it” – Olivier Rousteing

Rousteing’s brand of feminism is one that includes women of colour. When asked why luxury houses don’t cast most black or Asian models the designer – known for his pro-diversity stance – replied “Because they’re not living in the real world.”

“Fashion people sometimes forget that, except for the front row that you’re going to get at your show, there’s an entire world that loves fashion,” he continued. “So it’s important for me and for Balmain to show the diversity because it’s also about the luxury of communication. And you don’t communicate for just ten people in the room during a show; you communicate to an entire world.”

Communication is something that Rousteing is a master at. In fact he’s used pop culture to that end, using it to reach a new generation of customers. “When you love music, when you love pop culture, you know what Balmain is today,” he explains. “When you love Kim, Kanye, Rihanna, Jennifer, you know Balmain. I’m connected to the music world, and that’s what makes Balmain more real.”

Fashion’s matchless king of Instagram, Rousteing also speaks on Marc Jacobs’ social media mishap (accidentally posting a nude selfie). “Yeah, he showed his ass (on Instagram),” he says. “We are human and sometimes people forget that being a designer doesn't mean that you can’t actually do what a normal person would do.”

Head here to read the full interview.