Article Oct 27, 2016

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Olivier Rousteing urges designers to 'act' on diversity

Olivier Rousteing has urged the fashion industry to "work harder" on diversity.

The fashion designer replaced Christophe Decarnin as the creative director of Balmain in 2011, when he was aged just 25. He’s since gone on to imbue the French luxury label with a fresh aesthetic, and has become known for some of the most racially diverse runway and campaign castings to come out of any fashion house. But he’d like to see other brands embrace diversity with the same enthusiasm.

"I think sometimes the fashion industry talks a lot, but they don't act a lot, regarding diversity," Rousteing said during a Q&A with Alina Cho at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, according to

"I think the industry needs to start working harder. When you see critics talking about a show that has no (models of) color and they call it 'modern'? I wouldn't call that modern, I'm sorry. We have the chance to represent the world and how we want that world to be."

With the help of selfies with celebrity friends like the Kardashian clan, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, Beyonce and Justin Bieber, Rousteing has helped Balmain become the first French label to pass the million-follower plateau on Instagram. Though the 31-year-old saw social media as a useful promotional tool from the outset, he reveals that Balmain bosses weren’t so convinced.

"The question was, 'Can you mix luxury with digital? Can you sell a $20,000 (£16,200) dress and at the same time have a digital influence that talks to a crowd that might not be able to afford your clothes?' And I was like, 'I think that's what is modern.'"

Rousteing's ability to leverage star power in his campaigns is widely noted, and it's not uncommon to see Kim Kardashian or her sister Kendall Jenner sitting front row at a Balmain show. And the designer asserts that his relationships with celebrities aren’t simply business partnerships.

"I will never dress someone I don't believe in, someone whose music or world I don't like," he shared. "The people that I dress are people that I love and that inspire me."