Disney x Balmain collection celebrating 'The Lion King's' 30th anniversary is love letter to Africa

Balmain's 'The Lion King' collection is love letter to Africa
The collaboration between Disney and Balmain celebrates 30 years of "The Lion King" and is a love letter to designer Olivier Rousteing's roots.
ByNzinga Blake and Amit Lerner KGO logo
Friday, July 12, 2024 4:16PM

In a remarkable fusion of fashion and storytelling, Balmain's Olivier Rousteing teamed up with Disney Consumer Products to create an exclusive, breathtaking couture collection inspired by Disney's timeless classic, "The Lion King."

The Disney x Balmain collaboration not only celebrates the 30th anniversary of the beloved film, but also serves as a love letter to renowned French fashion designer's roots.

Rousteing and Balmain invited ABC's On the Red Carpet Storytellers Spotlight to South Africa to share the story behind his origin story, his love for storytelling, the dream collaboration with Disney, and how important it is to use his platform to be a voice of change so that all "beauties" can be seen.

It's really hard to look at the future when you don't know your past.
Olivier Rousteing

"When I was a kid, I always wanted to spread my voice," Rousteing shared while reflecting on his childhood. "Sometimes my silence was already being a storyteller."

Sketching superheroes in his bedroom, he dreamt of characters with the power to change the world, eventually leading him to envision his sketches as fashion.

"I don't sketch only clothes, I sketch a universe," he said.

Rousteing's journey is deeply rooted in his search for his origin story. Raised in France by adoptive parents, he faced racism and yearned to discover where he came from.

"It's really hard to look at the future when you don't know your past," he reflected.

Discovering his African heritage was a life-changing and proud moment for him, inspiring the creative visionary to incorporate his cultural roots into his work.

As a child, Disney also played a pivotal role in his love for storytelling.

In particular, the story of "The Lion King" resonated with him, which captured the attention of Disney executives.

When looking at creative ways to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the film, they thought of bringing an exclusive collection to life.

Inspired by Rousteing's journey and how he drew parallels to his life and Simba's journey to self-discovery, Disney Consumer Products knew partnering with the designer would bring a great level of authenticity to a collection.

"Olivier's journey and the impact that Simba had on him, we really wanted to bring that to life through this incredible product line," said Joss Hastings, vice president of global marketing for Disney Consumer Products. "The collection, rich in vibrant colors and intricate designs, is a tribute to both African heritage and the timeless tale of 'The Lion King.'"

To stay true to the vision of authenticity, both the Disney Consumer Products team and Balmain decided to film the campaign shoot on the continent of Africa, specifically South Africa, which offered a wide range of stunning landscapes.

Rousteing, inspired by natural colors seen across Africa, stayed true to the designs by utilizing natural materials like raffia and thread embroideries.

"You will see the importance of a love letter to Africa," said Rousteing, who worked with many African artists to bring authentic, cultural elements into the couture pieces. The list of creatives he worked with includes South African artists Nika Mtwana and Cassius Khumalo.

"The inclusion of Nika and Cassius is a true testament to Olivier's commitment to inclusivity," said Carmen Jean Smith, senior vice president of creative development at Disney. "He has been known to challenge the fashion industry's previous narrow standards. His collaboration with Disney extends this vision, celebrating diversity and giving a platform to underrepresented voices."

Smith praised Rousteing for all his efforts in this space and celebrated how both Disney and Balmain share the same values and vision.

"It's really about, how do we make space?" said Smith. "How do we create opportunity?"

The impact of this collaboration goes beyond the breathtaking aesthetics. It includes emotional stories behind the scenes, like that of young model Djemime Chochi, who was brought to tears at the sight of Rousteing on set. She told us Rousteing is a true icon and that she's been following his story.

Rousteing was touched when she told him that his origin story and journey to the discovery of his African roots inspired her because she, too, did not know her father.

"It's beyond fashion, it's beyond the clothes, it's beyond the colors, it's just emotions," Rousteing said.

Olivier Rousteing and Balmain's collaboration with Disney spotlights the transformative power of storytelling, fashion and cultural heritage. By incorporating his unique vision, paying homage to his African roots paired with the timeless magic of "The Lion King," Rousteing not only created a stunning couture collection, but also delivered a powerful message of hope, resilience and inclusivity.

The renowned designer said it best, "No matter if I don't really know where I come from, I want to leave a mark on this planet."

Disney is the parent company of this station.