Olivier Rousteing is the creative director of Balmain. He submitted a self portrait and was interviewed for Vogue’s June/July portfolio. His conversation with Mark Holgate has been condensed and edited.
Personally, it is really difficult to not have any contact [with people]. I miss seeing my friends and family, but mostly my family; I miss my grandparents so much. I’ve always been a glass half full person; since I’ve been in quarantine I speak to them every morning, and I feel closer to them. We talk about—as they are older, they like to talk more about memories—my childhood. Their words are even more meaningful to me as I now really have the time to listen to them. I reread the letters they sent to me when I was living in Italy 15 years ago.
Everything just has more meaning now. [My grandparents] are bad at Skype, Facebook, so my uncle, who lives next door, brings in the iPad for them so we can FaceTime. I see their faces and every wrinkle is beautiful; I take time to look at their eyes and smiles and I rediscover them. Things you forget when you’re busy and preoccupied working in the fashion system… they’re just more precious.
Even being stuck in my house and not being able to get out. I am going to tell you something else. I used to leave early and work late, and I stopped seeing the beauty of Paris. When I was driving home from working that last day in the office, I opened my car window and looked at the city and the light, something I’d stopped doing after living here for 12 years.
It’s a time for the team more than ever. Every day, our Whatsapp meetings are about life, and love, and how we are all doing. Work should be the last thing we talk about, yet it can also be a way to escape and disconnect. We work in a world of creativity and a world of dreams, and that can be a way to remove yourself. I expect a lot of great things to come from this moment. We were living in a bubble. Today we realize there is only one bubble that’s important: Our planet.
I’m listening to myself more, and I am listening to my team more. The fashion system was already facing something big, and this moment has only accelerated all the questions. The fashion system was bored of the fashion system. We have to be more spontaneous, not follow rules—we need to be more inclusive as an industry. I want to do fashion shows for different people; to open my doors to people who are not part of the system. Fashion can do so much. It can do so much for the world. We will do a fashion show in the street. I want to embrace freedom more than ever. The moment quarantine is over I want to share my vision with the whole world, not just for the few. It has to be more than that.
We have never been more creative. We Skype and we all exchange ideas. I am working on my menswear resort, my menswear show, my womenswear resort, and my womenswear show. We won’t have a resort presentation because the buyers are not going to travel. So the question is: How do we propose to respond to that creatively? Because we are going to have to be more creative. Yesterday we had rules we had to follow. But now…. So, there’s no couture show, well? We can present couture in a different way. If there’s no menswear show, well? We can do that in a different way.
Fashion is a system that should be connected to what’s real; it should do something that reflects our world, and has some meaning. It should be making us think about how to do better. We are no longer in a time of being the trend of the season. I don’t want to be cool, cool’s over. Chic’s over. You’re cool for two months these days. It used to be two years. Who wants to be part of that?