With a heritage stretching back over 100 years as one of Paris’s most historic and prestigious Fashion Houses, Balmain continues today at the fore of the Parisian fashion scene with a seasonal show at Paris Fashion among the most anticipated. But in recent memory, despite the exceptional collections presented under the aegis of Olivier Rousteing, Balmain’s Hair Couture line has started to wrestle some of the limelight away from the clothing collections and onto its luxury haircare and hair styling ranges.
If we look back at Balmain AW16, we see a show in part dominated by a now-famous hair swap between international supermodel best friends Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid. The pair wore hairpieces in each other’s natural hair colour, with Gigi turning brunette and Kendall going blonde for the show. With a collective global Instagram following of over 67 million at the time, it’s no surprise that their new looks soon went viral and created waves in media press outlets across the globe. The team behind the wigs? Balmain’s Creative Director and Balmain Hair Couture’s master hair designer Nabil Harlow.
Until recently, little was known about Balmain’s Hair Couture line or indeed its designer Nabil Harlow. That was until Harlow’s provocative collaborations with the Balmain House begun to put the hair couture line back on the map again. The Kendall-Gigi swap is a notable highlight, but Harlow has also teamed up with Rousteing to create two of Balmain’s more recent fashion highlights: firstly, Balmain’s AW16 men’s show which featured female models wearing 60cm dreadlocks by Balmain Hair Couture, while the brand’s SS16 women’s show included models wearing bouffant Barbarella-like ponytails, also created by Harlow at Balmain Hair Couture.
Balmain and indeed Paris has a longstanding relationship with wigs, with many of the French capital’s most iconic houses including Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior creating their own wig lines in the 1960s and 70s. Pierre Balmain, the eponymous founder of the house of Balmain, was relatively late to the perruques party and started his own range of hairpieces to complement his couture collections in 1974. But as the wig industry waned through the 1980s and 90s, the Balmain Hair Couture line focused its attention on hair additions such as extensions sold through an extensive network of professional salons around the world.
Today the Balmain Hair Couture has reasserted itself as a global leader in hair styling and haircare. This has been particularly true in recent years, especially since Olivier Rousteing became France’s youngest fashion Creative Director since Yves Saint Laurent and incorporated the haircare line as a key part of his vision for the house. In addition to its premium haircare products and styling tools, Balmain has returned to its roots to offer high-end wigs and weaves—a demand which looks set to grow due to recent social and fashion trends.