Balmain is one of the longest-reigning fashion ateliers in the history of couture. Founded by Pierre Balmain, the luxury label has been adding to the fashion archives since 1945, revolutionising Paris couture alongside the likes of Christian Dior and Balenciaga. Feminine details, couture designs and bold fabrics all contribute to the brand’s signature style, capturing attention across the globe.
At a time when utilitarian and regimented fashion was the norm, Pierre’s designs skyrocketed in popularity after glamorous Hollywood actresses such as Brigitte Bardot and Katharine Hepburn became transfixed with the brand in the 1950s. Join us as we take you on a guided tour through the Balmain history.
Pierre Balmain headed creative direction during the ’50s, the brand was largely considered an expert in couture, not ready-to-wear. When he opened the fashion house a year apart from his friend Christion Dior, it received glowing reviews, praising the combined ease and elegance of designs. That same year, it received special recognition in an issue of Vogue. Despite these early accomplishments, Pierre was adamant about pushing the boundaries of his design and dealings beyond the local sphere.
Travelling across to the US and Australia to build brand awareness, this innovative strategy at that time garnered Balmain brand status and won the loyalties of many Golden Hollywood celebrities. Big names such as Katherine Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, and Ava Gardner donned Balmain gowns. Pierre remained at Balmain for the rest of his life, after his death, second-hand man Erik Mortensen took charge of the fashion house. During his time her maintained the integrity of Pierre’s original designs and tried to accommodate changing fashion trends.
In 1993 Dominican designer Oscar de la Renta took over. With couture quickly falling out of style has had to change the fashion house with the times without losing the classic Balmain look. His collections for Balmain often mirrored that of his eponymous line, featuring feminine, ladylike silhouettes like low-hem fitted midi skirts, blazer jackets that cinched at the waist, and full skirts and gowns.
It wasn’t until Christophe Decarnin took over as creative director in 2005 that Balmain took a turn toward more celebrity-led fashion. Features flashier styles, the inclusion of bright colours, and lots of leather — and became more provocative. But in 2011, Decarnin suddenly stepped down from his role to treat his battle with depression. This unfortunate event catapulted the young, bright-eyed Olivier Rousteing who had been working at the company into the limelight at the young age of 25.