Balmain has taken a stand at the Cannes Film Festival - dressing 16 actresses at a press call for the project "Noire N'est Pas Mon Metier," or "Black Is Not My Profession."
The multimedia project, which includes a book, photo exhibit and documentary directed by Aïssa Maïga, aims to expose discrimination in the French and American entertainment industries. It is a compilation of personal stories shared by Maïga herself, along with actors Nadège Beausson-Diagne, Mata Gabin, Maïmouna Gueye, Eye Haidara, Rachel Khan, Sara Martins, Marie Philomène Nga, Sabine Pakora, Firmine Richard, Sonia Rolland, Magaajyia Silberfeld, Shirley Souagnon, Assa Sylla, Karidja Touré and France Zobda.
Maïga approached Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing to dress the project's ensemble - a request he immediately accepted. While it is not common for fashion brands to take political stands, particularly regarding race, Rousteing hopes that Balmain can lead by example - incentivizing other labels to throw their weight behind important causes.
"The moment I was asked to participate, I knew it was right for me, and for this brand, to form a part of this moment," Rousteing told WWD. "The simple message of the importance of inclusion that these actors are bringing to us is one that I've often repeated over the years - and I've been lucky enough to work at a house that believes in it as strongly as I do. Our 'Balmain Army' celebrates the beautiful diversity of France and the rest of the modern world - we hope others will join us soon."
The project hits a personal note for Rousteing, who says he has experienced ignorant jabs similar to those outlined in the book: "Their book is filled with many instances of humor and strength - but there were a few pages that made me recall similar moments, comments or stupidity that I have faced. I'm glad their movement is being listened to - they have some important truths to tell - and we owe them a big thanks for working to make us hear those truths."