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Balmain

Throughout its long history, the quintessentially Parisian house of Balmain has managed to retain its unique position as both a historic French house and as a leading trendsetting brand that others look to as a reference.

Pierre Balmain (born 1914 in St Jean de Maurienne, a small alpine village in the Savoie region of France) is a member of the elite group of visionary designers that guided French fashion to its renaissance after World War II. After briefly studying architecture (to appease his mother) Balmain began his career in fashion as an assistant to master Parisian couturier Lucien Lelong, working alongside fellow greats Christian Dior and Hubert de Givenchy. He left Lelong to establish his own house in the autumn of 1945. Balmain’s signature “Jolie Madame” style offered a startling contrast to the relaxed and utilitarian looks of the day – and its immediate popularity made clear that French women were eager to free themselves from the remaining vestiges of wartime hardship and embrace Balmain’s boldly feminine and opulent offering. 

“Jolie Madame” quickly became a favorite style of both European and Hollywood royalty. The world’s greatest actresses turned to Pierre Balmain to design their cocktail dresses, evening gowns and wedding dresses. Audrey Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Brigitte Bardot, Josephine Baker, Katherine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich and Sophia Loren were some of the many stars drawn to Balmain’s richly embroidered fabrics, nipped-in waists and longer, fuller skirts.

 Unlike some couture houses that have turned their back on what they once were, Balmain has always proudly remained true to the vision and trailblazing spirit of its founder. Since Pierre Balmain’s death in 1982, the house has been guided by a series of strong designers, each balancing modern offerings with the need to respect the foundations and traditions of the house. These designers — Erik Mortensen, Herve-Pierre, Oscar de la Renta and Laurent Mercier — were all inspired by the colors, fluidity and elegance of Balmain’s signature “Jolie Madame” aesthetic.

The early 21st Century has been marked by what some fashion editorialists have labeled “Balmania.” From February 2006 until March 2011, the house’s designer Christophe Decarnin produced a series of men’s and women’s ready-to-wear collections that were inspired both by Balmain’s rich archives and the unique glamour and elegance of Paris’ most fashionable residents. Olivier Rousteing, who worked alongside Decarnin, was named the label’s designer in 2011 and his collections continued to push the label forward on its path of explosive growth. Rousteing is influenced by the unique confident style of contemporary Parisians as well as the work of the masters who have guided Balmain before him. He is also determined to incorporate the tailoring, embroidery and techniques of classical French couture into his collections.

Just as Pierre Balmain stressed that his first objective was “to always dress women in the right look for the right moment,” Rousteing aims to create designs that chime with the way women are dressing now. The young designer’s couture spirit — seen in his careful attention to handwrought details — is balanced by his collections’ very modern silhouette. The Balmain look reflects the style of modern Parisian women.

Pierre Balmain’s beautiful atelier and showroom at 44 Rue Francois 1er, in the heart of Paris’ exclusive “triangle d'or” neighborhood, has remained the house’s iconic flagship address throughout its history. In 2009, the historic boutique was restored to its original 18th-century grandeur by Parisian architect Joseph Dirand. The elegant space — with its gold-leaf trimmed doors, 1940’s classic furniture, Versailles parquet floors and elaborate ceiling moldings — recalls the address’ original function as an aristocratic residence and serves as a template for the brand’s boutiques and shop-in-shops around the world.

The Men’s and Women’s collections epitomize the Balmain style with black and gold, leather and crystal detailing, etc. Painstakingly developed using the most magnificent materials, this range of accessories embodies the distinctive luxury and elegance that Balmain is famous for. 

   

 

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