DISCOVER: Fashion Icon and the History of House of Balmain

pierre balmain 1950s Fashion Icon Pierre Balmain was born in St Jean de Maurienne, Savoie, in 1914. Balmain had studied under the greatest couturiers of the time: Molyneux and Lucien Lelong.

After the conclusion of World War II, in 1945 Balmain opened his own couture house where his designs quickly attracted the attention of women ready to shake off the more austere looks of the war and embrace the new image of woman Balmain had created. His look was charming, unashamed, opulent and resplendant with finery richly embroidered and beautiful. Considered a “King of French fashion” he outfitted stars including Ava Gardner and Brigitte Bardot. His most famous client was Queen Sirikit of Thailand.

New French Style for Starlets and Everywoman

Coined by American author Gertrude Stein, a great friend of Pierre Balmain, heralded what she called the “New French Style” in her writings. Balmain’s portrayal of women in his designs created an aura of a woman who was active, vivacious, immaculate; an elegant woman; a perfect vision of the 1950’s “Jolie Madame”.

balmain elegant dresses

The advent of the 1960’s for Pierre Balmain, renewed the line in its use of fabrics, exploring structure and pared-down shapes. There were great contrasts of shapes and styles. This period also possessed a great sumptuousness for stage and theater costumes with Balmain outfitting stars in France and beyond, a list including Brigitte Bardot, Marlène Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn and a meeting with Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand, who appointed him as her exclusive couturier.

While Pierre Balmain’s representation of elegance suited queens, princesses and starlets, there was also a firm hold in fashion for the everyday world. Balmain is credited in the 1970’s for giving birth to the Ready-to-wear phenomenon.

balmain aris Fashion Showings for Fall-Winter 1958-1959

House of Balmain Designers

After Pierre Balmain’s death in 1982, the house was the led by Erik Mortensen, considered Balmain’s “right hand, followed by Oscar de la Renta who led the house between 1993 and 2002. The Balmain house was known for its classic, luxurious designs. Until 2011, the house was led by designer Christophe Decarnin, whose vision for the house is more modern and edgier followed in April 2011, by a new designer: the House of Balmain announced that Decarnin was succeeded by Olivier Rousteing.

Resurgence of Popularity

Fashion magazines, runways and celebrities gave the Balmain house popularity around 2008 and 2009 with particular attention to the 2010 collection, shown during Paris fashion week, thought to be “retro” bringing back a glitz and glitter similar to the 1970s disco era.


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