À La Mode with Balmain's Creative Director Olivier Rousteing

Balmain’s Bal Harbour Shops boutique showcases a tweed dress and the BBuzz bag.
Balmain’s Bal Harbour Shops boutique showcases a tweed dress and the BBuzz bag.

There is a Paris, Texas, a Paris, Maine and Paris, Tennessee. The former even has its own model of the Eiffel Tower, a poor approximation of the original, to which I was brought to visit as a cranky teen. I remember staring up its lacey iron skirt, at the red cowboy hat fixed atop its steeple, and wishing I could stand at the foot of the original, whose tendrils still give me goosebumps to this day. This is the perpetual failure of the replica, the souvenir, the photograph: it never satiates, but leaves one even more hungry for that moveable feast Hemingway famously outlined.

My skepticism is met head-on by the subtlety and ambition of Balmain Paris’s first Miami flagship. Designed by the architects at Studio AMV and built within the luxurious company of the Bal Harbour shops, the new flagship was conceived by the house’s creative director Olivier Rousteing to act as a little slice of Paris—but not the kind my teenage-self craved. “For the new global concept, Rousteing directed the architects to focus squarely on the second part of the house’s official name: Balmain Paris,” Balmain CMO Txampi Diz tells me. “He wanted Balmain to transport Paris to all corners of the globe, to make each visitor feel the atmosphere of Paris, wherever they may be. But he also ensured—at every step of the process—that this was done in a modern, fresh way, avoiding all expected clichés.”

For Studio AMV, this meant digging into the language of the city’s historic residential architecture and breaking down those repeated phrases into their simplest structural syllables, which could then be reimagined for each new Balmain location. In the case of Miami, the hôtel particulier elements arrive as graphic statements: bold black and gold arches paired with a sleek hall of interior mirrors. The boutique is a literal jewel box that speaks to my sybarite soul in the love language of rare materials.

In a way, this is the kind of visual cosseting I’ve come to expect from Rousteing, who took over the storied house in 2011 at the age of 25, becoming the youngest designer ever to hold his position. Nine years later, the house has flourished under his command, developing what Rousteing has dubbed his “Balmain Army,” whose divergent ranks are perfectly encapsulated by its range of muses, from Rihanna to Jane Fonda. The Miami boutique will serve as the group’s newest headquarters and, like its predecessors in London and Milan, the Balmain Paris in Bal Harbour is a space for aspiration and connection. “Just like every Parisian, I often find myself daydreaming of escaping to Miami for a fantastic vacation,” Rousteing says. “But, Balmain’s decision to open in Miami has little to do with that love for the city’s well-known beauty and distinctive culture and everything to do with Miami’s incredibly vibrant fashion, art and retail scene. And, of course, knowing that Miami is a preferred destination for Latin American consumers made it even more important that we open one of Balmain’s first American boutiques in that city.”

Rousteing also invested in Miami’s art scene at this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach, partnering with artist Cecile b. Evans to transport the romantic 19th-century ballet, Giselle, to the beach. The collaboration involved not only financial support, but Rousteing even opened up the brand’s archives for Evans’s costuming. Like his global concept, this approach places value in learning from the past—looking back yet always moving forward. The Miami boutique is no approximation, but rather its own expression, strengthened by its reverence for what has come before.