Balmain's Olivier Rousteing Says New Documentary Reveals His 'Vulnerable and Fragile' Side

Wonder Boy, out now on Netflix, follows Olivier Rousteing's search for his biological parents

Balmain : Runway - Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2017
Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty

After taking over Balmain in 2011 at age 24, making him the youngest and only Black creative director in the history of the French fashion house, Olivier Rousteing impressed critics and celebrities alike, turning Balmain into a cultural phenomenon and the It-girl's go-to label for sexy party dresses.

He was one of the first designers to harness the power of social media and befriended some of the Hollywood's biggest stars, including Kim Kardashian, Rihanna and Bella Hadid, along the way. Now, Rousteing is taking fans inside his high-fashion world and opening up about the not-so-glamorous moments that shaped him in Wonder Boy, a revealing new documentary out now on Netflix.

Speaking to PEOPLE about the film (which premiered exclusively in France last year), Rousteing says, "Many people know me as the Balmain designer, but I want to let them know the human being behind the French fashion house."

"I wanted to give a message to future generations that no matter where you come from, you can decide where you want to go," says the creative director, who was adopted as a baby by a couple in Bordeaux, France.

The film follows Rousteing's search for his biological parents, among other struggles in his personal life, which the designer admits he's "nervous" for people to see.

Cara Delevingne and designer Olivier Rousteing arrive at the PUMA x Balmain Los Angeles Launch Event held at Milk Studios on November 21, 2019 in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California
Cara Delevingne and Olivier Rousteing. Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency/Sipa

When asked what his fans and longtime followers will be most surprised by when they watch the film, he says candidly, "I think maybe the loneliness."

"They see me with my friends and celebrities and [living] this incredible, glamorous life. Everything looks fabulous. But this documentary shows the loneliness of someone who's looking for his parents and trying to understand his origins. I think people will be surprised to see me being vulnerable and fragile."

In one particularly emotional scene, the designer learns that he was born out of wedlock when his mother was just 15. The clip also reveals that Rousteing's biological father was 25 when he was born, and it's unclear whether the relationship was "romantic or non-consensual."

His mother wished to remain anonymous at the time of Rousteing's adoption, so the designer was only able to contact her indirectly through a letter that his social worker could pass on.

"I think all of your weaknesses from the past make you stronger," he says, reflecting on the experience.

Rousteing adds that he's had to "fight to be recognized as French" all his life. "When I was born, there was a lot of racism. There still is, but there was even more at the time... I had to fight to break boundaries and say, 'I'm Black, but I want to be a successful fashion designer.'"

The star attributes his incredible work ethic and drive (both of which are showcased in the Wonder Boy) to wanting to make his adoptive parents proud and prove to the fashion world he's deserving of the hype.

When asked about his career-defining moments, the star sites tapping Rihanna as the face of Balmain in 2013, launching an affordable collection in collaboration with H&M in 2015 and designing Coachella looks for the one and only Queen Bey in 2018.

"Just being next to Beyoncé, listening to her voice, cutting the fabric together on the floor... I felt like someone should have pinched me," he says, adding. "It was surreal."

Aside from Rihanna and Beyoncé, Rousteing has also been fortunate enough to have the Kardashian-Jenners in his corner for nearly a decade. "Kris Jenner is like a mom to me. Whatever I go through in my life, I know I can count on her. She's always there for me."

The designer explains that he started incorporating celebrities and pop culture into Balmain to bring some level of relatability to luxury fashion.

"I was kind of bored with fashion sometimes being so unreal and disconnected from reality. Even the bodies of the models. People look through fashion magazines and think, 'Who actually looks like that?'" Rousteing says. "The celebrities I work with bring an awareness of Balmain to a different [demographic] that doesn't open a magazine or follow fashion."

I think people want to feel connected. Behind those $40,000 [Balmain] dresses, there is so much work, there is so much passion, there is love, there is pride, there are tears," Rousteing explains, adding that, ultimately, he wants to show the world a "less superficial" side of fashion.

Wonder Boy is out now on Netflix.

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