|Longtime friends Cara Delevingne and Balmain Creative Director Olivier Rousteing wear looks from their new collection for Puma.|
“Cara was the very first woman I kissed on the lips!” says Olivier Rousteing, laughing as he fondly recalls how he met, hit the clubs with, stayed up late with, worked with, and eventually became dear friends with model/actor Cara Delevingne. This month, Delevingne, 27, and Rousteing, 34, the creative director of Balmain, launch an exuberant unisex collection—Puma x Balmain Created with Cara Delevingne—that includes silky red-and-blue boxing shorts, color-blocked bomber jackets, hoodies, leggings, and distressed striped tees—sportswear that might be saddled with the moniker “athleisure” since it is deeply practical, but that also evinces an inimitable, unmistakable Balmain flair that transcends that plebeian category.
When Puma approached Delevingne about collaborating on a line with a designer, she knew immediately whom she wanted to work with and why. “I was sure Olivier and I had the same kind of vision,” she says. Rousteing knew it too: His response was “a big yes! Cara creates her own rules—she is not just trying to please the fashion crowd.”
If you think about it, the two have a lot in common: a profound commitment to diversity, a desire to forge their own paths, and a new way of looking at (and shaking up) that fashion crowd. The collection—35 pieces that will be sold in Puma stores and other retail outlets and a capsule of six special pieces available in Balmain boutiques—is organized around a boxing theme. Both Rousteing and Delevingne are avid boxers, obsessed with the notion that the greatest battles are the ones you fight with yourself. (Rousteing’s challenges and successes are chronicled in the upcoming documentary Wonder Boy; when Delevingne saw an early screening, she cried.)
|Puma x Balmain created with Cara Delevingne Cell Stellar Sneaker, $400; puma.com.|
Rousteing, who arrived for this interview straight from sparring, wearing an anonymous tank top, black Balmain track pants, and a dazzling gold Rolex, along with other bracelets (a Cartier Clou, a backstage band from the first Balmain menswear show, an evil-eye charm given to him by a friend), says he envisions the clothes as bringing a little bit of his France—Paris! Balmain!—to the world of sport. To that end there are, in addition to the souped-up classics, a glamorous black, blue, and red silk kimono that plays off the robe a boxer wears, along with a slinky dress with decisive shoulder pads that Delevingne thinks projects “energy, strength, and sexiness.” Classic Puma sneakers morph into ranger boots for those chic soldiers enlisted in the Balmain army—a posse as fashionable as they are fearless. Rousteing and Delevingne even rejiggered the classic Puma symbol by doubling the fun: “We imagined two cats together instead of just one,” Rousteing says.
The collection’s video campaign likewise revolves around the ring, except that the pugilists, save for Delevingne, are not conventional models but rather a roster of fierce young people—dancers, artists, activists, refugees, survivors—who have looked their own serious issues in the face and triumphed. “We have 10 characters in the campaign, and all of them have something important to say to the world,” Rousteing says proudly. “That is also why we wanted to create a kind of fight—because we need to fight for freedom, and to be who we want to be.”
The collaborators are thrilled that the Balmain sensibility, filtered through the cool lens of Puma, will be available to a wider public. “I never wore designer clothes as a teenager, so being able to make these at a good price point is my favorite part,” Delevingne says. Admittedly, she’s not a teen anymore—she’s now a working actor and a world-class supermodel. So would she wear this Puma stuff in real life? “Of course!” she says. “It’s 100% how I dress—the tanks, the tees: super-comfortable, great for travel!” In fact, she confesses, “I already stole some pieces.”