Olivier Rousteing takes us on a tour of Balmain's London pied-à-terre, designed by Joseph Dirand
London's South Audley Street is now sporting a new French resident in the form of Parisian stalwart Balmain, with the house's 29 year-old creative director in town for its grand unveiling. Conceived by architect Joseph Dirand, the two-storey boutique merges a quiet 18th century elegance, which respectfully salutes the legacy of founder Pierre Balmain and its Mayfair location, with a fresh modernity courtesy of its neutral colour palette, geometric slate flooring and mirrored counters.
'The store in Paris is really rich French, Haussmann, baroque,' says Rousteing of the brand's global flagship, 'Here, we have kept the DNA with the quality and richness of that couture feeling, but we wanted it to feel more cosy and intimate because I think that is London, this warm intimacy belongs to London more than Paris.' Sitting in the store's lower ground menswear salon he adds, 'Paris is all this marble, like you are coming to a castle, whereas here it is a like a little chic glamour house.'
The brand's Parisian architect concurs: 'It was very important for me that this London address be a continuation, not a replication, of my previous work for Balmain. In 2009, when I remodeled the house's historic Paris flagship my aim was to create a Parisian townhouse where the house founder would have been very much at home. My work on this London flagship translates that same French refinement into a slightly different English vocabulary.' Here, Dirand has maintained the façade's traditional gold leaf and black lacquer frame, yet inside the space's aristocratic mouldings that have been dialed back for a new age.
'Since this is meant to be founder Pierre Balmain's "London pied-à-terre", it made sense to channel the look of the local architecture,' he continues. 'To do that, I relied on the vocabulary of the Queen Anne Revival style - the defining architectural style of the surrounding Mayfair neighborhood. The space's doors, ceilings, mirrors and large stone fireplace are all inspired by that classically sober English style.' Under foot the floor's ivory thalas and grey hainaut stone paving is also a riff on traditional English parquet.
'Continuing on the theme of this address being a "second home" I also think that if Pierre Balmain had made the move to London, he would definitely have brought along with him the furniture that he loved. Therefore, I have created pieces inspired by the house founder's favourite mid-century French furniture designers, André Arbus and Jean Royère.'
The colour palette and noir marble accents also replicate the walls and fireplaces of the house's current designer's home: 'My house is really French, Haussmann and baroque,' says Rousteing, 'but not gold, more white on white, and black on black. The marble fireplaces are a little piece of Versailles that I love - the richness of France.'
As for the store's key accent hue - an olive that has featured heavily in Rousteing's recent military-minded collections, he adds, 'Khaki has always been really important to the collections - last winter was all olive - as it works really well with most colours. So whatever collection you put around it, it will match.' Indeed, the perfect neutral resting place for S/S 2015's graphic prints and tribal beading, before A/W 2015's disco colour palette lands in London in the autumn.