By Oluwatoyin Adeleye
It all started when stylist Marni Senofonte approached Olivier Rousteing after his autumn 2018 runway show for Balmain and explained to him that she was trying to find the right designer to create custom looks for Beyoncé’s upcoming Coachella performances. “Marni told me that the shows were all about survivors and that B was looking for something in a military style,” Rousteing says. “Our silhouettes and our sort of Mad Max, futuristic take on military looks for Fall were a perfect fit.”
But, of course, Queen Bey was not about to wear something that was going to be mass-produced, so Rousteing went to work with Senofonte and the rest of Beyoncé’s team to create two custom Balmain stage wardrobes, one for each of her performances on the two Saturday nights. Rousteing also dressed the 200-some dancers on stage, as well as Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, who reunited with Beyoncé for a Destiny’s Child throwback moment.
Rousteing only had a few weeks to pull it all together, spending sleepless nights and long days creating the Egyptian-inspired gold-and-black cape with intricate embellishments; as well as a hologram-fabric black jacket and bodysuit; a collegiate-style embellished yellow hoodie with “BAE” written on the front; a camouflage and mesh minidress; and a top decorated with a 2018 Beyoncé crest that shows a bee, a raised fist, a panther, and an Egyptian goddess. “By the end it felt like Marni and I were in a relationship,” the designer said with a laugh. “We went to bed texting and emailing one another and woke up doing the same.”
Rousteing not only worked in close contact with Senofonte, but also with “B,” as he calls her, and her entire creative team. He flew out to Los Angeles to be a part of the rehearsals, making sure that the clothes moved well for the complex choreography and that every outfit change was precise and well executed. “B is a perfectionist,” Rousteing says. “She has such a distinct vision for fashion and for her music, I really learned a lot from this experience and from watching her work in those rehearsals.”
Though he has worked with Beyoncé before, on her 2016 tour costumes, and has collaborated with an impressive roster of celebrities that includes Frank Ocean and Kim Kardashian-West (not to mention brands and organizations like Victoria’s Secret and the Paris Ballet), he emphasizes how different and intimate this experience was for him. “If I am being totally transparent, it is very, very rare in this kind of process to have so much communication with the artist and the ones closest to her on her team.” He adds, “I was able to be in the room with her and she would give me direct feedback about how the lighting should hit the clothes, what the music had to emphasize about each look — I never had to guess what to do next.”
Rousteing believes that these couture pieces for Beyoncé will go down in music history, not only because of the immense amount of work that went into them but also because they highlight the dynamism of the performances themselves.
Still, despite the glamour and excess involved in this collaboration, Rousteing’s favorite memory was a much quieter one. “I think the thing I will always remember is sitting on the floor with B and cutting fabric,” he says fondly. “Blue comes in and runs over to B, and B holds her in her arms while talking to us about the cuts and silhouettes. To me, it was just such a beautiful moment because here you are with this megastar but also, she is a strong woman and a loving momma to her daughter.” Blue did not officially give her approval on the Coachella ensembles, but her father, Jay-Z, did. “Jay saw the Egyptian goddess cape and when B put it on, his eyes went wide and he was so excited, he said, ‘Oh, wow!’ That gave me a lot of satisfaction.”
Read also: The Very Best Moments From Coachella 2018
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