Wonder Boy: Balmain’s Olivier  Rousteing about the New Documentary

Balmain’s Olivier  Rousteing Talks about the New Documentary

As he preps for Cannes, the fashion designer–beloved by Beyoncé, Jennifer  Lopez and Kim  Kardashian –explains the inspiration behind Netflix’s ‘Wonder Boy,’ which follows his attempts to find his birth parents.

 

The film, directed by Anissa Bonnefont, presents a deeply personal portrait of a man whose introduction to the fashion scene was as a wunderkind, having taken the lead at Balmain in 2011 when he was just 24. He quickly carved out a devoted following of A-listers due to a brand aesthetic, ranging from the baroque to the space age.

His custom looks were worn by everyone from Kardashian West and Kanye West at the Met Gala to Beyoncé at her culture-shifting Coachella performances. He’s become a star himself with the help of Instagram, where he often posts for 6.6 million followers.

The out designer is also one of only three Black men to ever head a French fashion house. Balmain, founded in 1945 by designer Pierre Balmain, is today owned by Mayhoola for Investments, a Qatari investment fund that also owns Valentino.

Rousteing, 35, spoke from his atelier, while at work finishing some custom pieces destined for the Cannes red carpet as well as preparing for his September runway show in Paris, which will celebrate his 10th anniversary at Balmain.

Your most recent resort collection brings in African influences. What was the inspiration?

This collection feels personal because I discovered my origins, which I didn’t know for 30 years. I was raised in Bordeaux, a conservative city, but it was important to show the multicultural aspect that I have in my blood. It’s my vision of being a citizen of the world, being proudly French, proudly half Ethiopian, proudly half Somalian. This is the new France because I had to fight for so many years in my childhood to be recognized as French.

Your childhood–growing up Black with two white parents?

I had a lot of racism and criticism at school or from parents of my friends. I have been rejected a lot because I was not corresponding to their standard. They called me bastard. They didn’t get the beauty of my family.

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Olivier Rousteing with his adoptive grandparents in Wonder Boy. ANISSA BONNEFONT

Your resilience?

It’s the love of my parents. No matter what, you know that your real parents are your adopted parents.

You have this drive to find your birth mother?

At one point I say, “Why am I here if my parents didn’t want me?” It’s the sentence that is always in my head. There is something in your heart that hurts because you don’t belong anywhere. So you’re always looking for love, being recognized, love, being recognized.

Being open about your life with the cameras rolling?

Many times I wanted to give up. But at the same time, I thought I can represent many kids that have been adopted. Maybe this documentary will help people from all around the world to say that no matter where you come from, what matters is where you want to go.

More info about your biological parents?

No, I don’t.  The weirdest thing, when you have success, is that you have so many women who pretended they were my mother. It’s really hurtful.

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Rousteing (right) and models at the Paris presentation of his Africa-inspired resort collection on June 8. VANNI BASSETTI/WWD