Lately, I have been obsessed with both the work and the life of Olivier Rousteing- the 28 year old creative director of Balmain. Rousteing was a law student when, at 18 years old, he decided to drop out of school and follow his first love- fashion. He is an orphan, and according to him, fashion was a way for him to figure out who he really was. "I always used clothes to actually identify myself and making sure that I could find my own identity," he says. After working for designers such as Versace and Cavalli for a while, Rousteing became the right-hand man of Cristophe Decarnin. Decarnin departed the house in 2011 and, to the surprise of everyone, was succeeded by then only 25 year old Rousteing.

What drew me to Rousteing was his courage. Prior to his taking over as the creative director for Balmain, the house was a small Parisian company. It was exclusive; designed only for people who knew and could afford the brand. Rousteing changed that. With the help of social media, he made Balmain become part of pop culture. Icons like Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, and a plethora of supermodels are wearing his clothes and promoting it. One only needs to look at his partnership with H&M, for example. Through this, Balmain became inclusive, mass-marketed to trendfollowers through Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Before Balmain, no other designer brands had ever even attempted marketing in this way, but if Rousteing had doubters, he proved all of them wrong. Rousteing took Balmain from almost-bankrupt to multinational in the space of 5 or 6 years.

This strength of his is what I admire the most. It is not easy to stand in front of hundreds, even thousands of experienced fashion executives and say, "I am going to change the way you run your business." And yet, he, at 25 years old, with no fashion degree to his name and very little formal experience, was bold enough to do so. He believed in what he can do as a designer. He believed in his ideas and his visions. And by believing in himself, he got the rest of us to believe in him too.

P.S. The Last Magazine interviewed Olivier a couple years back. It's still gold.

Photo Credits: The Last Magazine and CNN


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