Pierre Balmain

Pierre Balmain

Lived between 1914 and 1982, Perre Alexandre Claudius Balmain was a well-known fashion designer from France and the founder of Balmain fashion house. He was and still is known for his elegance and sophistication.

At the age of seven, his father, who owned a drapery wholesale business, died. On the other hand, his mother along with his sisters managed a fashion boutique. Later on when Balmain grew up, he learned architecture from École des Beaux-Arts, but did not complete his education. He spent most of his time designing apparel. After he left his studies, Balmain started to work with Edward Molyneux (fashion designer) who offered him a trial from 1934 to 1939.

After the second world war, he began working with Lucien Lelong and in 1945 established his fashion house that displayed bell-shaped and small waist skirts. This was a look that became famous later on through the brand Christian Dior. A family friend, Gertrude Stein wrote a commemorative piece on Balmain for Vogue magazine and following this an order was placed by the Duchess of Windsor.

By 1951, Balmain opened various branches of his label across America to sell his prêt-a-porter collections. During this time, he popularized some unique trends such as stoles, evening wear and in addition to this made sheath dresses with jackets a fad in the fashion market. He was talented in creating both simple and extravagant clothes, all with the similar aesthetics of graceful and slender lines. Moreover, he also designed iconic uniforms of Singapore Airlines crew, based a little on traditional kebaya of Indonesia.

Additionally, Pierre Balmain created fragrances as well including Vent Vert which was launched in 1947 and was also his first triumphant scent as well as the most lucrative perfumes of 1940s and 1950s for Balmain. Subsequently in 1953, he created Jolie Madame, then Ivoire in 1979 and Eau d’Amazonie came after the death of the designer by his brand in 2006.

For his astounding creations and designs, he was nominated for Best Costume Designer by the Tony Award and Balmain received the Drama Desk Award for designing outstanding costumes for Happy New Year Broadway production in 1980. He designed costumes for Sophia Loren for The Millionaires, 1960 and Josephine Baker for her eponymous revue, 1964. He designed costumes for sixteen films and designed clothes for actresses Mae West and Vivien Leigh.

His classic couture dresses are still chic and sought after among international movie stars and socialites such as Kristin Davis, Kate Moss, Tatiana Sorokko, Alexandra Kerry, Penelope Cruz and Angelina Jolie among others. In 1969 the designer once said something like good fashion is not a revolution but an evolution. By then, the haute couturier was a legend for both the royalties (particularly Thailand’s Queen Sirikit) and the Hollywood stars such as Marlene Dietrich. Along with Dior, Cristobal Balenciaga and Jacques Fath – Balmain was considered the one who brought back glory to the French fashion scene after Paris’s liberation.