Balmain Spring 2012 Review

Balmain Spring 2012 collection

Photos: Imaxtree

Looks from the Balmain Spring 2012 collection

Show: Balmain

Hair: Sam McKnight

Makeup: Tom Pecheux

Accessories: Tooled and embroidered leather high-heeled ankle-boots, hefty belts buckled high on the waist

Overall takeaway: New designer, but the same old Balmain

What is the Balmain style all about? Richness, in every sense of the word. Former design chief Christophe Decarnin set the template for the house—and indeed, apparently set them in stone. The Balmain look is about hyper-decorated short dresses, tight trousers, high heels and big shoulders. It's about insane (and, occasionally inane) luxury. Those looking for new designer Olivier Rousteing to reinvent that formula were disappointed. But, then again, if it ain't broke don't fix it.

For spring '12 and his inaugural Balmain show, Rousteing looked south of the border for inspiration. But don't think Mexicano—more like Tex-Mex, as this was a melding of Hispanic styles with the dazzling decoration of Dallas. I meant the city and its rodeos rather than the mid-eighties television series, but both are applicable reference points for Rousteing's dazzling dresses and taste-defying jeweled trouser-suits.

It was, in short, business as usual at Balmain—although it's negligible how much creative freedom Rousteing was given to create exactly what he wanted. After all, the Balmain formula is not only highly-visible, but highly-successful: This season saw the launch of a lower-priced sister line, Pierre Balmain. But Rousteing's approach had enough fresh ideas and energy to entertain the fashion press, while keeping the businessmen and that fickle Balmain girl happy for next season. The really interesting thing will be to see how he evolves that look for a new Balmain era.