Balmain Launches Socially-Distanced Fashion Show Down the River Seine

A creative collection staged on a barge opened Paris’ first-ever digital couture fashion week

It wasn’t a traditional catwalk event, but these are untraditional times. French fashion house Balmain hosted a socially-distanced retrospective on Sunday in Paris. The haute couture show, staged sur Seine, reached deep into the house’s archive. Creative director Olivier Rousteing mixed his own back catalogue with that of previous directors Pierre Balmain (the romance, according to Rousteing), Erik Mortensen (the glamor), and Oscar de la Renta (the Hollywood).

Twenty-one models emerged from backstage (below a mirrored deck) and walked the barge barefoot and unmasked. The show was exhibited on a péniche that drifted down the river from the Eiffel Tower to the Notre-Dame cathedral. The models, spaced two meters apart, were accompanied by dancers and French singer Yseult.

Rousteing was eager to emphasize the show’s element of accessibility. Not only was the public able to watch the show from the river’s banks and bridges, but the event was also streamed live and exclusive to TikTok. 

Rousteing worked with Beyoncé collaborator Andrew Makadsi and choreographer Jean-Charles Jousni to bring the show to the river. The team planned the show to coincide with Balmain’s 75th anniversary, pointing to both the past and the future. It was a celebration of Paris lifting lockdown measures. An attempt to process the pandemic. An artistic response to the Black Lives Matter movement. And it was a meditation on where the fashion world will go next. “You can see the evolution, not just through the clothes but how the world has changed,” Rousteing told Vogue. “I think that’s a message of hope: what we have done together.”

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