Pierre Balmain (1914 – 1982) was a French fashion designer and the influential postwar fashion house Balmain founder. He described the art of dressmaking as “the architecture of movement,” and he was known for his sophistication and elegance . Balmain aimed to beautify the world like an architect, often drawing parallels between architecture and couture. Balmain studied to be an architect but believed couture was most beautiful when worn. He thought, “nothing is more important in a dress than its construction.”
Balmain’s father owned a wholesale drapery business and died when the future designer was seven years old. His mother, Françoise, and her sisters ran Galeries Parisiennes, a fashion boutique. He attended school in Chambéry and spent weekends with his uncle in the spa town of Aix-les-Bains, where he was inspired by society women he met.
He moved to Paris in the early 1930s from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne in the Savoy Alps. Intending to study architecture, he quickly became enamoured with haute couture. He first applied to Edward Molyneux’s studio and Lucien Lelong’s, where Christian Dior had also gotten a job. Both designers aspired to open their own couture houses. When a funding opportunity arose, Pierre Balmain left Lelong and moved into a studio on Rue Francois.
Move to the United StatesEmbed from Getty Images
In the fall of 1946, he embarked on a lecture tour of the United States. His mission was to entice buyers and clients to return to Paris and resurrect the couture industry. During the war, he had halted the Paris fashion scene. The wealthy American clientele had turned to their designers, such as Main Bocher. As a result, Pierre Balmain saw it as his mission to reclaim the hearts and wallets of the society ladies on the other side of the Atlantic. Of course, he also had something to offer the ladies: a new silhouette.Embed from Getty Images
In the fall of 1945, his first collection was featured on the cover of American Vogue. The next step was to open a branch in New York, where he would produce pret-a-porter clothes based on his couture designs. Pierre Balmain had twelve workshops and approximately 600 employees by 1956. His signature style was waisted evening gowns with wide tapering skirts embellished with motifs such as leaves and scrolls. He also debuted a new silhouette. It was figure-hugging and only spread out from the knee, resembling an upturned champagne glass, and was his response to Christian Dior’s dome shape.Embed from Getty Images
Costumes for Sophia Loren in The Millionairess (1960) and Josephine Baker in her eponymous 1964 revue are among her other Broadway theatre credits. Balmain was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Costume Design for Happy New Year and won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design (1980). He also was a costume designer for 16 films, including Brigitte Bardot’s And God Created Woman and La Parisienne, and designed wardrobes for Vivien Leigh and Mae West. He made many dresses for Dalida.
Pierre Balmain in the News
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Milbank, C. R. (1985). The great fashion designers. Thames and Hudson.
Werle, S., & Neumann, S. (2010). 50 Fashion designers you should know. Prestel.
Wikipedia contributors. (2021, March 4). Pierre Balmain. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 05:46, May 15, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pierre_Balmain&oldid=1010217794
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