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02nd Apr 2014

Reeling Back The Years – History Of Fashion House Balmain

Where it all began.

French fashion house Balmain was founded by Pierre Balmain, who released his first collection in 1945 and his first fragrance, Vent Vert, in 1947.

Style featured heavily in his family life, his father owned a drapery business and his sister and mother ran a fashion boutique.

Originally studying architecture, Pierre found he spent most of his time designing dresses, and so he left school and began work for British designer Edward Molyneux.

Pierre Balmain at work

Pierre Balmain discussing his designs

 During the 1930s, he spent time in the French army and air force.

When peace was declared, he began work for designer Lucien Legong and it was here he met Christian Dior, who would go on to have a huge influence on his career.

His early designs were lavish and luxurious, in strict contrast to the modest styles worn during wartime.

A model wearing an evening dress by the fashion house Balmain

Animal print has been a style staple for years now

Balmain believed that true style meant timeless classic pieces.

He avoided fussy decorative designs, instead sticking to simple lines and impeccable attention to detail.

This design talent can be credited with creating what his close personal friend, author Gertrude Stein, called the “New French Style”.

1947 David Jones Pierre Balmain Show

Early Balmain designs on the catwalk

Gertrude was an immaculately poised and well-dressed woman, embodied in his 1949 fragrance Jolie Madame.

As well as creating chic day suits that were perfectly tailored, Balmain also created stunning evening wear and he made the stole popular for day wear as well as night.

A model wearing a wool and fur suit by the fashion house Balmain

Balmain created tailored pieces in luxurious fabrics

1982 was the year Pierre Balmain passed away and designer Erik Mortensen took over his role.

Mortensen had joined the house in 1951, working closely with Pierre.

He had often been described as his right-hand man and worked to maintain the brand’s reputation as a haute couture haven while also forging new creative links.

He left the house in 1990 and designer Hervé Pierre took over until 1992 working as director of ready-to-wear and haute couture.

Oscar de la Renta took the helm in 1993, and had a huge impact on the luxury fashion house.

Oscar de la Renta Celebrates 35 Years at Bergdorf Goodman - April 26, 2006

Oscar de la Renta was creative director at Balmain for nearly ten years

Joining at a time when couture was flailing slightly, due in part to its concept as an unrealistic industry, he was creative director at Balmain until 2002.

By catering to a private clientele, much like founder Pierre, haute couture was slowly brought back to life.

Christopher Decarnin was next to take over the label and he sought to completely overhaul the Balmain aesthetic.

He favoured flashy clothes, which were completely at odds with the history of the brand. By focusing on eveningwear, his sparkling, power shouldered and strong designs provoked a craze christened ‘Balmania’.

In April 2011, Oliver Rousteing joined the house in 2009 with an aim to ingratiate the finer aspects of French culture into the Balmain brand.

Balmain - Runway RTW - Fall 2014 - Paris Fashion Week

Balmain - Runway RTW - Fall 2014 - Paris Fashion Week

Some of Rousteing’s designs for Balmain

Rousteing can be credited with modernising the brand.

As Asia comprises a large majority of the brand’s market, Rousteing hopes to exert an Asian influence over the brand’s clothing.