Pierre Balmain founded the French luxury fashion house Balmain in 1945. From New York City to London to Los Angeles to Las Vegas and Miami to Milan’s Via Montenapoleone, the company has 16 mono-brand stores across the globe. Since the label’s start, Balmain has given women the power to be strong and glamorous. They call themselves the Balmain Army because they wear modern-day power pieces (think strong shoulders, striking silhouettes, and a lot of hardware) and walk with purpose in the Balmain girl’s style. This article explores the history behind this French fashion house.
This section highlights everything you need to know about Balmain fashion house, including when it started and where it is currently.
Pierre Balmain Early History
Pierre Balmain was born in St. Jean de Maurienne, a small French alpine village, in May 1914 and grew up in a fashion-focused environment. His father inherited a successful drapery business, and his mother worked at a dress shop that was owned by his father and managed by his aunts. His father also owned the shop- or at least that’s what the family believed. It was only after Pierre’s death in 1921 that the mother and son discovered that they were not wealthy as they thought but nearly broke. However, what little of a legacy Balmain’s father left him — a childhood immersed in the world of fashion and a box filled with theatrical costumes — would have an impact on the designer for the rest of his life.
Balmain Studies Fashion
Pierre Balmain received a scholarship to boarding school in Chambéry, France, at 11, where he was taught the skills he would later use to become a fashion icon in Paris. Balmain enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1933, despite having already decided on a career in fashion at his mother’s request. With the help of a letter-writing campaign, he was quickly connected with Lucien Lelong, Jean Lanvin, and Edward Molyneux—the latter of whom gave him his first job.
Working for Different Fashion Houses
For 11 years between 1934 and 1945, Balmain worked in various fashion houses after studying architecture in Paris for a year. He worked for Robert Piguet, the House of Molyneux, and finally Lelong before retiring. For example, designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, and Balenciaga sought to preserve the French style by catering to the needs of French women. Balmain was one of the first fashion houses to recognize the enormous potential of the U.S. market and began developing products specifically for this market. For this reason, however, the French market did not regard him as one of the leading designers in Paris. Other French fashion houses looked over Balmain for a long time, but the brand has endured because of its astute business sense and aesthetically pleasing designs. After selling his perfume company to Revlon in 1960, Pierre Balmain continued to run Maison Balmain as its owner and creative director until he died in 1982. While the couture side of Balmain was his primary focus, he made a tidy profit in the perfume industry as a side hustle.
In 1945, Balmain opened a fashion house called Maison Balmain. The House of Balmain was an instant hit because it focused on making high-quality evening wear. As with Dior, Balmain’s prior success at other fashion houses undoubtedly helped him succeed as a designer for his label. Balmain stands out because design and money are both important, and if they aren’t both important, then the money is. A fashion house is, after all, also a business. In his first designs, he put a lot of thought into how well they were built and how fancy they were. But he also made a lot of money selling fragrances as a side business. Today, the famous Balmain blazers show how much attention was paid to how they were made and how well they were made. But when Pierre Balmain was making clothes, the focus was on creating beautiful evening dresses. In 1953, he began selling his clothes in the United States under Jolie Madame. Other French designers of his time didn’t like how he grew his business, but in the end, all Parisian fashion houses did the same thing. There was a pretentious idea that only French women should be dressed, but Balmain didn’t care about that. As a result, his competitors seriously undervalued him.
Balmain’s Market Orientation
As an accomplished fashion designer, Balmain was interested in understanding the market’s needs. Balmain was more interested in knowing exactly what women wanted, what would sell, and creating precisely those pieces for them. And he was unquestionably a huge success in that endeavor. The Elfreda-Fox company began making ready-to-wear collections with him in 1949, and he opened a Paris boutique two years later. In 1962, he received the French Legion d’Honneur and launched several successful perfumes. Though his work on outfits for the 1968 Winter Olympics and airline crew uniforms for Malaysia-Singapore and TWA airlines was regarded by the fashion establishment as less than prestigious, his reputation as a commercial designer solidified.
Oscar de la Renta to the Rescue
After Balmain died in 1982, the company repurchased Revlon’s perfume business. In the end, Balmain’s excessive licensing agreements, particularly with the Balmain name, only tarnish the brand’s good reputation and diminish its value. For the next 11 years, Oscar de la Renta served as the creative director of Maison Balmain. The consensus among critics is that he was instrumental in rehabilitating the company’s image and rekindling its financial success. He worked at Balmain for nine years before presenting his final collection in July 2002, reviving the brand’s reputation for sophistication. To sum it up, Pierre Balmain was an artist with a keen eye for business. As a Parisian fashion house breaking into the American market, he made decisions decades ahead of their time. With Oscar de la Renta’s success as chief designer, Balmain was resurrected to its former glory after his death due to excessive licensing. Seven Heads of Design have led Balmain since Pierre Balmain’s long reign ended.
The ‘Wonder Boy’ – Oliver Rousteing
Olivier Rousteing was 25 years old when he became Balmain’s Head Designer in 2011. With this collection, he hopes to breathe new life into the iconic Pierre Balmain aesthetic for today’s modern woman. Roberto Cavalli hired Rousteing as a graduate intern when he was 18. From there, he rose to become one of Peter Dundas’ most prominent protégés. At Roberto Cavalli, Rousteing honed the skills that would serve him well at Balmain, balancing his love of the avant-garde with the label’s reputation for luxury and decadence. Critics immediately praised Rousteing’s first collection for Balmain in the spring/summer of 2012. His critics feared that Rousteing’s penchant for tacky patterns, which he described as “something Mexican,” would derail the collection. However, Rousteing also stated that he had to adhere to Balmain’s “couture heritage” and “what Oscar de la Renta did for the house,” which he wanted to honor. Using the house’s classic couture silhouettes as a canvas, he achieved this look. With Pierre Balmain’s diffusion line, Rousteing worked to bring his avant-garde vision into the realm of more casual dressing. ‘Wonder Boy,’ a short film directed and produced by Anissa Bonnefont, saw Rousteing go in search of his roots (related to fashion) in a surprising documentary released in 2019.
Balmain’s designs were known for their attention to detail and elegance. A clear example of this emphasis is the iconic Balmain blazer. However, despite this fact, Balmain’s classic blazer was designed to complement Pierre Balmain’s iconic evening dress in the 2000s. The blazer became a statement piece when layered over an evening gown. ‘ Rather than a product of Pierre’s designs, the classic blazer was created to add to his collection. This blazer costs anywhere from £1,575 to £4,650 today.
‘The Harder They Fall’ Netflix Capsule
The Harder They Fall, a new Netflix Western starring Idris Elba, Jonathan Majors, and Regina King, was produced by Jay-Z and had its world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival on October 6, 2021. Jeymes Samuel directed it. Olivier Rousteing worked on looks with Antoinette Messam, the film’s costume designer. He was also inspired to make a new limited-edition Balmain capsule, which is now for sale on FARFETCH. The movie was a great addition to Balmain’s portfolio because it was so important to the culture. Rousteing says that putting together a collection for Paris Fashion Week and a limited-edition capsule are based on the same fashion and design basics. In true Balmain style, The Harder They Fall capsule collection features power-look jackets adorned with fringes in keeping with the theme and suede versions of the B-Buzz bag collection.
Since the label’s start in 1945, Balmain has given women the power to be strong and glamorous. They call themselves the Balmain Army because they wear modern-day power pieces (think strong shoulders, striking silhouettes, and a lot of hardware) and walk with purpose in the Balmain girl’s style.