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Balmain’s fashion muses

To celebrate US Black History Month, FARFETCH has collaborated with Nataal — the media platform dedicated to African fashion, art, music and culture — and Balmain’s creative director, Olivier Rousteing, to hero the Black muses, past and present, who continue to inspire him today. ‘[Rousteing’s] choices were translated by photographer Kenny Germé and stylist Edem Dossou into this rebellious shoot, expressing how the groundbreaking spirit of these artists remains an enduring influence on modern luxury today,’ explains Nataal’s co-founder and editorial director, Helen Jennings. Here, Jennings speaks to Rousteing about these trailblazing muses, the cultural significance of Black style, and his vision for Resort 2021.

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On Grace Jones

‘Grace’s power and fearlessness is reflected in the fact that she was one of music’s first female artists to play with androgynous dress codes. I love that hers is not an obvious glamour. I also love her collaboration with Azzedine Alaïa in the 1980s, which helped me understand the power that a true muse can hold for a designer. Alaïa is one of my favorite French designers and I’m obsessed with Grace’s songs — their long partnership helped me realize the great potential of mixing music and fashion.’

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On Beyoncé

‘Beyoncé is such an icon, such an inspiration and, most importantly, she is a great friend… She has taught me so much. When I was a kid I was a huge fan and when we met, she was so humble and generous. We spent a lot of time together when she did Coachella [Balmain dressed the singer for her performances at the 2018 festival], which is something I’ll always remember, and I was so proud when she wore Balmain to cast her vote for Biden last November. All the clothes she chooses and every move she makes are daring yet timeless. Her storytelling is incredible. And, on top of all that, she’s an inspiring activist, working for change.’

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On Josephine Baker

‘Josephine was one of the muses of Monsieur Pierre Balmain; in one image from the 1950s, he dressed her in a white draped silk evening gown. I’m proud of Balmain’s long partnership with this amazing artist. Beyond her incredible talent and accomplishments, she is a true French hero — she was a member of the French Resistance. She also adopted a big family of children, all from different backgrounds and origins. Coming from an orphanage, that story of how she created her beautiful and diverse family is something I deeply admire.’

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On the cultural significance of Black style

‘Janet Jackson, Donna Summer, Diana Ross — I originally discovered my obsession with fashion through these singers. And now I count Pharrell Williams, Rihanna and Kanye West among the icons who inspire me, too. Last summer my couture show was a concert on the Seine with Yseult, who is one of the most important artists in France today. Mixing her aesthetic with couture dresses from the 1940s and 1950s — a time when fashion was not inclusive — demonstrates that we are creating our own history. This is me saying I’m a Black designer with a Black singer putting on a show for the world that we are living in today. It’s hope for a better, changed future.’

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On designing Resort 2021 in lockdown

‘This was the toughest collection of my life. My team and I are like a family, always working closely together — and then, suddenly, we had to find an entirely new way to work, apart. It made me realize how much I depend on a talented team who share my vision and understand this house. We were forced to experiment and find new ways to make it work for us — working hard to exchange ideas and sketches, from morning to late in the evening. We shared a lot of emotion building that collection during that unusual, challenging time, and all our extra efforts resulted in an optimistic collection full of craftsmanship, color and joy.’

Shop the looks

wide stripe mixed stitch cardigan

Thom Browne

wide stripe mixed stitch cardigan

$1,808

Photography by Kenny Germé

Styling by Edem Dossou

Creative direction by Marie Gomis-Trezise

Art direction by Delali Ayivi and Precious Opara

Hair by Rimi Ura

Makeup by Cécile Paravina

Nails by Cam Tram

Set design by Sati Faulks

Model: Marie K at Studio Paris Management

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