All about the H&M x Balmain collaboration.

I am wearing the HM x Balmain jacket and H&M pants. The picture is by Tracey Adams.

I am wearing the HM x Balmain jacket and H&M pants. The picture is by Tracey Adams.

It is a Tuesday morning in New York City and we are about to get the first glimpse of the highly anticipated Balmain and H&M (Hennes & Mauritz) collaboration collection. We are at a press conference in the grand 1927 masterpiece, the Ralph Walker Tribeca building at 100 Barclay Street.

Since Olivier Rousteing, the creative director of the Parisian luxury fashion house Balmain, announced the news of his partnership with the Swedish retailer earlier this year at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas, fashion lovers across the world have been waiting with bated breath. Over the months, Rousteing, who is followed by 1.5 million people on Instagram, teased us with campaign images featuring his super-model friends, the “Balmain Army”: Jourdan Dunn, Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid.

At 30, Rousteing’s career growth has been impressive. After taking up the role of creative director at 25, this orphan from France has quickly become the globe’s most in-demand couturier .

Describing himself as an “H&M generation boy”, Rousteing says the collaboration is a dream come true: “For me being part of the H&M story, it’s an honour, it’s a privilege and it is something that celebrates a vision and aesthetic.

“Ten years ago I was part of the Cavalli collaboration. I was an assistant, I also started an internship in Cavalli.

“When I think 10 years later I’m with Balmain, the creative director, I’m building that amazing story that we’re going to share together. I feel like it’s a dream come true,” says Rousteing.

Olivier Rousteing, Kendall Jenner

Olivier Rousteing and  Kendall Jenner

Over the years H&M has collaborated with a number of international designers to make high-end fashion more accessible, including fashion giants Karl Lagerfeld, Roberto Cavalli and Versace.

At the press conference, Ann Sofie Johansson, the creative adviser at H&M, praised Rousteing’s talent.

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How hot is this top?! Picture by Tracey Adams.

“I think we have a wish list of designers we would like to collaborate with and Rousteing was on that list.

“We also get a lot of questions from our customers, demands really, who to collaborate with next… he was one of the top names there. It’s also fun to have a collaboration that is opposite to what we had last year with Alexander Wang.

“That was really sporty and streety, now we have this opulent, glamorous and a sexy collection,” says Johansson.

The hashtag for the collaboration is H&M Balmain Nation #HMBalmaination which symbolises unity and diversity, explains Rousteing: “I love fashion for two reasons. I love to do clothes, but I think also fashion helps to bring about a vision. A vision of diversity and at the same time unity and uniqueness.

“With H&M it was literally expressing the diversity.”

Why the ‘nation’? “First, because obviously this line is more affordable than my own line. “I think for me it was more than building the Balmain Army, I could reach more people, different ages, also different continents because Balmain has not so many stores like H&M.

“For me it was literally building a nation that believes in the Balmain universe, the DNA of Balmain,” says Rousteing. 

Joan Smalls

Joan Smalls

The collection includes a menswear collection that would fit right in a 1980s Michael Jackson video and womenswear made up of cocktail dresses and fitted jackets.

It’s a collection of beautiful timeless pieces boasting the Balmain aesthetics of embroidery and embellishment, in leather, silk and tulle with subtle detailing and gold buttons.

Also part of the range are bold  high-heeled caged sandals with a rope design and accessories. Items in the collection range from R749 to R5 999 for a fully beaded party dress and jacket. Accessories start at R399.

“The most important thing for the collection was to translate the confidence, the sexiness and the power of the (Balmain) house.

“Then you’re going to see the diversity of Balmain, and how it is for different people, for different continents and different worlds. I want everyone to feel welcome in the Balmain world,” he says.

The Balmain Army captures this and is made up of models and A-listers that personify Rousteing’s take on fearless femininity.

Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Jourdan Dunn

Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Jourdan Dunn

“Hadid and Jenner are two strong girls and they are also different as an aesthetic. “It was important to work with them, as well as Dunn. The Balmain Army is always girls that I believe in and who believe in me, it’s important to share that.

“I think it was important to build this squad of strong girls that are going to be strong women,” says Rousteing.

That evening we witnessed a spectacularly choreographed runway showcase at the launch event at 23 Wall Street, featuring the Balmain Army It wasn’t your typical runway show, but a star-studded, flashy celebration attended by the likes of Kylie Jenner, Alexa Chung, Diane Kruger, Alek Wek, Lewis Hamilton, Coco Rocha, Ne-Yo, Ellie Goulding, Jessica Hart and Soo Joo Park. Black attire was a popular choice for the evening, where drinks flowed and guests dined on canapés, burgers and fries.

Dudley O'Shaughnessy

Dudley O’Shaughnessy

The show ended with a surprise performance by the Backstreet Boys, after which we
were treated to an opportunity to shop at a pop-up store in the building’s

Kylie Jenner and Lewis Hamilton.

Kylie Jenner and Lewis Hamilton.

On what he enjoys about working in the fashion industry, Rousteing says: “I love the creativity of fashion so much.

“I really believe you can be creative and be happy, that you can make fashion and still be smiling. Sometimes people think fashion has a lot of dark sides, and that no one smiles, no one laughs. I want to show that you can create and still be happy and young, and still have your dreams. It’s a wonderful world and I am so glad to be a designer because I’m creating dreams.”

Ellie Goulding

Ellie Goulding

“And his advice for budding fashion designers: “The fashion world sometimes has so many boundaries where you can’t express exactly what you want to express. Comments about critics, about a show. Just believe in yourself. When people say you’re controversial, push your ideas and vision and don’t be afraid. You have to be sure of yourself,” says

Alessandra Ambrosio

Alessandra Ambrosio

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● I was in New York City courtesy of H&M. This feature was first published in the Cape Argus on November 2 2015. 

● The HM x Balmain collection will be available from Thursday at the H&M V&A Waterfront store, and at the H&M Sandton City store on Saturday, as well as online.


Nomadic culture inspires Ricci Janse van Rensburg latest designs

Photo by Sivan Miller

Photo by Sivan Miller

The brand  Ricci JvR is well known in South African fashion circles. Now the fashion brand by Cape Town designer Ricci Janse van Rensburg has gone global, launching its “Neo Native” collection with New York-based fashion tech lab Nineteenth Amendment.
Created as an alternative to traditional industry business models, the Brooklynbased high-fashion platform connects emerging designers from around the world with consumers and retailers. The garments are sold online and are manufactured in the US on behalf of the
designers. Janse van Rensburg answers questions about herself, her brand and her “Neo Native” collection.



Why did you become a fashion designer? Since the age of 12, I have been dreaming up my own designs and walking around with a sketch pad drawing outfits for my friends and princess dresses for my Barbies. I guess to me it was never really a decision I had to make, it was made for me way before I even realised it. I simply stepped into something that has always been a big part of my life and I was lucky enough to make a career out of it. I have always been mesmerised by fashion – the way it can influence how you feel, how you carry yourself and simply how you can express yourself through clothing.

How did you develop your interest in fashion design?  Curiosity, creativity, a need to express myself, passion and a fascination with people all played a large part in developing my interest in fashion.

Also, the fact that fashion has the ability to boost your confidence, change your mood and the way other people perceive you, what is socially acceptable. All these elements further fuelled my fascination and passion for this industry.

What was your first job? In retail at a clothing boutique in Tygervalley Centre. I only worked there over weekends and some afternoons. I worked there for almost three years. The job helped me to understand the retail side of the industry a lot better.

Photo by Sivan Miller

Photo by Sivan Miller

What were your inspirations for the designs you created for Nineteenth Amendment? The nomadic lifestyle has always been an underlying source of inspiration to me. I am mesmerised by the raw beauty of nomadic tribes/cultures and exploration of the unknown.

“To me, strong lines, textures and layering played an extremely important role in the design of this collection. I like to incorporate an unexpected element when styling to keep it more interesting.”

The nomadic influence can definitely be seen in my garments especially in the finishes and focus on detailing.

For this collection, I focused on comfortable clothing – layered and styled in an effortless way. The silhouettes are relaxed, soft and draped with roomy, romantic volume.

How did you select the materials and colours you used? It is all about combining textures. I looked for unusual fabrics and trims to complement the vision I have created for the collection. With this collection I tried to choose as many environmentally friendly fabrics as possible.

Describe the woman you envision wearing your clothes? I don’t design for a specific woman in mind, but I design various pieces and then combine and style it to create the final look. The design process and realisation of each piece is important. Therefore I focus on individual pieces at a time. I do, however, try to design diverse pieces, ensuring that no matter your taste – you would find something in the collection that would suit your style.

“It is important to make every client who wears my garments feel amazing and confident.”

Who are your most influential fashion designers and why? Locally, Joburg-based designer Suzaan Heyns. I just love her conceptual approach to fashion. Internationally, brands like Balmain and Viktor & Rolf inspire me for their exceptional concepts, intellectual approach to fashion and unconventional elements.

Photo by Sivan Miller

Photo by Sivan Miller

Of all the creations you’ve created, does one stand out as your favourite and why? I don’t have an all-time favourite piece. I guess this is purely because I always try to challenge myself to grow, to become better, to expand my comfort zone, to experiment and to give my best. Each piece represents a different stage of the design process and therefore I consider them all valuable as an ongoing design process.

Who’s your style icon, and why? Businesswoman and interior designer Iris Apfel. Her confidence, boldness, refreshing and fun approach to fashion is simply captivating. I figure that when it comes to getting imaginative, there’s no-one quite as inspiring as this 94-year-old.

Sivan Miller

Photo by Sivan Miller

What’s the best part of working in fashion? Always being able to be creative, being surrounded by creative and like-minded people and to have the freedom to express myself through every garment that I design. The entire process from researching trends, finding inspiration, designing and manufacturing to shooting campaigns and seeing clients wearing my designs.

What do you think of the talent of young South African designers currently in the industry and who are some of your favourites?

“There are more than a few incredibly talented designers in South Africa with very strong aesthetic signatures.”

Some of my favourite of the new generation of designers are Selfi, Lara Klawikowski, Adriaan Kuiters, Shana Morland and MaXhosa by Laduma.

What can be done to encourage people to buy local or support local designers? We have a lot of talent, enough to compete with international fashion designers; it is just less explored and exposed.

“The entire world looks at Africa for inspiration… why not use this to our advantage?”

It will largely benefit our country not only financially, but also mentally, if people start appreciating our diverse culture, authenticity and everything we have to offer. It’s about creating conscious consumers and understanding where your clothing comes from, and also believing in the designers behind it.

Photo by Sivan Miller

Photo by Sivan Miller

What are your plans for the Ricci JvR brand? My focus is on developing my brand into a more established and recognised label, both nationally and internationally, and maybe opening a boutique at a later stage and expanding on my current collection.

For now I will be working on new collections for Nineteenth Amendment and continue working with my clients here in South Africa.

What do you think of eco-fashion? 

“The fashion industry leaves behind a huge environmental footprint, from the pesticides used in growing cotton and the leached chemicals from the toxic dyes, to the landfill impact of clothes that wear out and the energy required to produce each piece.”

Buying clothes labelled under the Fair Trade Act is sustainable on several levels: you can be sure it was produced under safe working conditions, it’s sweatshop- free, and the person who made it earned a fair wage. Therefore, eco-fashion is very important for various reasons.

Photo by Sivan Miller

Photo by Sivan Miller

This feature was first published in the Cape Argus on September 15 2015

Focus on Balmain

For this week’s Fashion Friday, I feature  French fashion house Balmain, founded by “a king of French fashion” Pierre Balmain. After Pierre’s death in 1982, the fashion house has been led by some of French’s finest, such as Oscar de la Renta.

Balmain is known for its classic, luxurious and detailed designs, each garment is a work of art. Here are my top-favourites, pick your look.

Rihanna in Balmain.

Rihanna in Balmain.

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