The well-known fashion brand Balmain was created by Pierre Balmain, born in 1914 in Saboie. His father owned a drapery business and his mother ran a fashion boutique with her sisters. He began studying architecture at the École de Beaux-Arts in 1933 and at the same time he worked as a freelance drawing for Rober Piguet. A year later he started working for Edward Molyneux for five years, and during de war he joined Lucien Lelong for the next two years, where he met Christian Dior.
His own House was created in 1945 and the same year was launched his first collection, characterized by long bell-shaped skirts with small waists, a style that in 1947 became popular as part of Dior’s New Look. Gertrude Stein, a poetess, defined Pierre’s Collections as the French New Look. It has to be said that Pierre Balmain with Christian Dior were the symbols of the New Look’s generation, a style that caused a revolution after the Second World War, leaving back austerity and creating voluminous garments and refined fabrics. Therefore, Balmain was one of the most important haute couture fashion houses during a post-war époque.
Piere Balmain also created perfumes. In 1947 was aired Vent Vert, the most successful one during the forties and early fifties. Another was Jolie Madame in 1953 or Ivorie, in 1979.
The maison became international in 1951, when he opened a shop in New York where ready-to-wear clothes where sold. The biggest success was to know how to give to the American clothes the French style. During the fifties became popular the stole, to wear during the day as well as the night, and the cossak like wraps and capes. This decade represents his golden age, when he reached successful results knowing how to create simple tailored suits and spectacular evening gowns, but always keeping the elegance and the sophistication of a classical style knowing how to suit the female body. It’s important emphasize one of his famous quotes with reference to the couture art: “Dressmaking is the architecture of movement”. Another features of Pierre Balmain’s designs were eventful skirts embellished with embroidered leaves or cherries, dresses made taking care of all the details, drapery, bows across the shoulder or fur in hoods, muffs or trims. Therefore, he had a refined aesthetic but it remained luxurious and opulent.
In addition, Balmain also created costumes for some film stars, such as Vivien Leigh, Mae West, Brigitte Bardot or Sophia Loren. Some of his faithful clients were Katherine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, the Queen Sirkit of Thailand or Hope Portocarrero, the Nicaraguan first lady. Nowadays stars like Angeline Jolie, Penélope Cruz or Kate Moss, still remain loyal to Balmain’s vintage gowns.
Pierre hired young fashion promises before they have become famous, for example Gerard Pipart, John Cavanagh or a young Karl Lagerfeld after judging a fashion competition where the Austrian designer won.
Revlon acquired the perfumery line in 1960 and the French House entered in an instability period after Pierre Balmain’s death in 1982, when Erik Mortensen, his right hand, took the lead of the brand. Erik updated and developed Pierre’s style and won twice the French Haute Couture Golden Thimble Award, ten for his Autumn-Winter 1983/1984 collection and another for his Autumn-Winter 1987/1988 collection. He was replaced by Herve-Pierre and in 1993 Oscar de la Renta arrived to the maison and left in 2002. He had a style similar to Pierre Balmain’s, preferring simple and classical designs. De la Renta got the Haute Couture of the brand back on its feet after a bad period for Couture. In 2005 Chritophe Decarnin joined Balmain but his style contrasted with the classical one that always had reign in the maison, wanting to bring the brand to the 21st century. Olivier Rousteing, who worked for the label since 2009, replaced him in 2011. Rousteing has added a fresh touch to the aesthetic of the brand, where we can see an Asian and retro influence bringing back the glitter and glitz, but, moreover, he wants to focus the brand “on the finer aspects of the French Couture”. Oliver’s train of admirers include the Kardashians, Rihanna, Beyoncé or some Victoria’s Secret’s models.
On november 2015 Balmain presented a collaboration with H&M. The collection included 110 pieces that were an homage to the biggest successes of the brand of the last three years. The pieces have a very specific style: an eighties essence with shoulder pads or gold buttons or appliqués and a love for the excess represented in vibrant and metallic colours or reptile skin effect. It was a total revolution with its own name, #HMBalmaination.