Pierre Balmain

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Pierre Balmain and the actress Ruth Ford, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1947

Pierre Alexandre Claudius Balmain (French pronunciation: [pjɛʁ balmɛ̃], b. Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, Savoie, 18 May 1914 – Paris, France, 29 June 1982) was a French fashion designer, founder of fashion house Balmain. Known for sophistication and elegance, he once said that "dressmaking is the architecture of movement."[1]

Life and career[edit]

Balmain's father, who died when the future designer was seven years old, was the owner of a wholesale drapery business. His mother and her sisters operated a fashion boutique. Balmain studied architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts, but did not complete his studies. He spent his time there designing dresses. While attending the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Balmain went to Molyneux, who promised to give him a trial. Balmain then left his architectural studies to work for the fashion designer Edward Molyneux, for whom he worked from 1934 until 1939. He joined Lucien Lelong after World War II and opened his own fashion house in 1945. The house showcased long bell-shaped skirts with small waists - a line which later became popular as Dior's New Look. In 1951 he opened branches in the United States selling ready-to-wear clothes. During the 1950s, Balmain popularized the stole for day as well as evening wear and created a vogue for sheath dresses beneath jackets. His talent as a designer lay in his ability to make simple, tailored suits as well as grand evening gowns, all with the same aesthetic of slender and elegant lines. Balmain also designed the iconic uniform of the Singapore Airlines Singapore Girl, loosely based on the traditional Indonesian kebaya.

Balmain also created perfumes, including Vent Vert (1947), his first successful scent and one of the best-selling perfumes of the late 1940s and early 1950s, Jolie Madame (1953), Ivoire (1979), and Eau d'Amazonie (2006). His first perfume, launched in 1947, bore his company's Phone Number, Elysées 64-83.

Balmain was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Costume Design and won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design for Happy New Year (1980). Additional Broadway theatre credits include costumes for Sophia Loren in The Millionairess (1960) and Josephine Baker for her eponymous 1964 revue. He also was a costume designer for 16 films, including the Brigitte Bardot vehicle And God Created Woman, and designed on-screen wardrobes for the actresses Vivien Leigh and Mae West. He made a lot of dresses for Dalida.

Balmain's 1964 autobiography was titled My Years and Seasons.

His companion was the Danish designer Erik Mortensen, who worked as a designer at Balmain from 1948 until 1991. Also the later very successful Danish fashion designer Margit Brandt worked as a young designer with Pierre Balmain in the early 1960s.

Balmain is mentioned in Peter Sarstedt's 1969 hit song "Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)".

Balmain's vintage couture gowns remain chic, sought after and popular among the international jet-set, movie stars and socially prominent women, and have been seen on Angelina Jolie, Penélope Cruz, Alexandra Kerry, Tatiana Sorokko, Kate Moss and Kristin Davis, among others.[2][3][4][5][6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Balmain". Elle. Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  2. ^ Sherman, Lauren (31 August 2007). "Inside Hollywood's Closets". Forbes. Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  3. ^ Rao, Priya (13 December 2010). "Botanical Garden's Gall". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  4. ^ "Join Glenda Bailey & Tatiana Sorokko for Exclusive Couture Symposium". Harper's Bazaar. 20 October 2010. Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  5. ^ "Best Dressed Of The Week – Jennifer Lopez In Zuhair Murad Couture & Kristin Davis In Vintage Balmain". Redcarpet-fashionawards.com. 10 May 2010. Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  6. ^ Alexander, Hilary (23 February 2009). "Oscars 2009: Stars disappoint in the fashion stakes". The Telegraph. Retrieved 26 March 2011. 

External links[edit]