There are many new and old complexities in the fashion industry. It seems that the industry is becoming more common nowadays for people to embrace who they are. This factor is more apparent in the way companies are marketing themselves and coming to be more inclusive. In parallel with the embrace of different cultures, body types, etc. people are trying to find who they are in the midst of all the madness. It is important that we reflect on the fact that no matter how much money or fame a person has, they are still human. They have feelings, traumas and more likely, a luggage full of emotional baggage. Keeping this in mind we can bring light to creators such as the director of Balmain, Olivier Rousteing. Being one of the biggest names in fashion, Rousteing started his career with Balmain when he was 25 years old. With all of the success and fame, he still had questions revolving around his identity and knowing who he truly was. Being adopted at the age of one, he never truly knew who his birth parents were. In his later years at the age 31, he wanted to be apart of a documentary about his life. Rousteing then tried to find his birth mother, and he discovered that she was Black. This tells us it’s never too late for self-discovery no matter the level of success or age.
Before his great stardom, Rousteing was a French student. He studied at Ecole Supérieure des Arts et Techniques de la Mode (EMOD) in Paris and graduated in 2003. After graduation, he started working for Robert Cavalli. Earning the position of creative director in 2011, at 25 years old, Rousteing became one of the youngest creative directors in the fashion industry. Rousteing has put Balmain on the map as an iconic brand with stars such as Kylie Jenner endorsing his work. In 2018, for Beyonce’s Coachella performance, Balmain was the powerhouse behind the majority of outfits that today are copied and even put in current museums. Behind all of the success and dressing stars, there are still people out there trying to discover themselves.
The documentary is titled “Wonder Boy.” “With Olivier, we wanted to tell the story of someone looking for their origins because we believe it’s very important to know who you are to know where you’re going,” said film director, Anissa Bonnefont at the premiere. “He had an insane amount of courage to accept being filmed during his search. I believe it will help others. It’s a topic that goes beyond us.”
Emotionally, it takes a lot for a person to search for their birth parents– to do so in front of the world can even be harder. One might not know how to handle what they discover, and, in this case, Balmain personally discovered his true race which was the opposite of what he’s been telling himself for years. Mentally that is very tough to handle. Your thoughts about yourself have been not necessarily a lie but not true either. “It’s a strange moment in my life. Usually, a documentary happens when you’re 80 or 90, or when you’re actually dead,” Rousteing told the audience. “But it’s more than a biopic, it’s a story to which we didn’t know the end.” The documentary explores the journey of one person with an issue that speaks to many.
For the fashion industry, this means that there is another African American in the lead roles, behind the scenes and putting clothing on your favorite models. The lack of diversity in fashion has been extremely rare up until recent years. Rousteing was under the impression that he was mixed with a variety of races due to his lack of knowledge of his parents, and his light skin tone. However, being fully Black in this industry is another hurdle and can come off as a completely different variety of situations and stigmas than the other different issues people deal with being of mixed races. This changes the conversations that people have regarding the creative diversity in fashion. For example, in 2018 when Virgil became the creative director for Louis Vuitton, the news spread like a wildfire. Instagram and Twitter were flooded with posts that ranged from “History has been made. One of the first black leaders of a high-end brand” to “This is inspiring, now any young Black boy can make history just like this.” Now I am left to ponder whether or not this changed people’s sentiments when it comes to those higher-paid roles in fashion. Of course, it may not change the history of what happened with Louis Vuitton, though, in essence, it does change the narrative of who is inside of the powerhouses.
There has been this dynamic change in fashion in such a short period of time from all aspects. The glitter and glamour are still present, yet there is a transparency that has never been seen before but is starting to surface now. In this documentary, you see behind the scenes of the fashion industry. Even better in the personal life of those creative leaders you know and admire. You can log onto Instagram and see Olivier walking down the catwalk; but when sitting looking at this screen, you see a man that’s alone. Not quite lonely, but sitting at a bare table, no longer surrounded by stars — there’s no glamour. It is still the same industry you know and love, but the much more relatable side. The other side, the life that we can all say we’ve experienced before. The searching for our identity, a night alone after we’ve had the time of our lives out, the unknown; these are all things we’ve seen in ourselves and others.