For GQ by Justin Fenner.
If Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing is tired from his past few nonstop days in New York City, he's not showing it. After dressing Kanye West and most of House Kardashian for Monday night's Met Gala, the designer looked every bit his young and energetic 30-year-old self during a tour of his brand's new flagship store in the Big Apple today.
Located in SoHo, the downtown shop is the first U.S. boutique for the brand's very uptown-priced clothing. And while most stores keep guys' clothes in the back, that's not the case here. Menswear greets you as soon as you walk into the space at 100 Wooster Street, and that's because Rousteing works just as hard-and in some cases, harder--on his men's clothes as he does on the women's pieces he's become famous for.
"Everybody thinks that a long dress takes the longest amount of time. But actually, no," he said. Out of all his couture-level custom pieces for the Met Gala (he made Kim Kardashian a gown that looked like a suit of armor made from pieces of an actual disco ball), "the hardest thing was Kanye's jacket. We had to bleach the denim and then embroider it with all the stones and pearls. I felt like this was a different kind of process that we're not used to doing in couture."
And Rousteing obviously doesn't agree with people out there who took offense to West not sticking to the white tie dress code.
"I was really proud. And when you decide to dress Kanye, I mean, you don't want to dress him just like the others," he said. "You want to dress Kanye because he is Kanye. And I think if Kanye feels like, 'I want to wear denim,' you just go all the way."
Read more: Kanye West's 100 Best Outfits
That spirit for experimentation in style is part of what separates pop legends like Rousteing's icons David Bowie, Prince, and Michael Jackson from one-hit wonders. ("I think music legends always embrace couture and fashion like he does today," he said.)
It's also why the Paris-based designer says American guys are far better dressed than their French counterparts.
"French men, they don't dress at all. They don't try to push their style at all," he said. "In Paris, people are kind of blasé, you know? Bored. And so they just don't try hard because they feel like it's already cool to be French. Whereas Americans, I feel like it's a mix of different styles. They love tailoring, but they love sportswear at the same time. So I feel like they can wear sneakers, but they can also wear really classy shoes. They can wear joggers with a tailored jacket."
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