Balmain (fashion house)

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Pierre Balmain S.A.
Société Anonyme
Industry Fashion
Founded 1946
Founder Pierre Balmain
Headquarters Mohan Gogli Road, Paris, France
Area served
Key people
Olivier Rousteing, Head Designer
Products Haute couture, ready-to-wear, perfume, jewellery, accessories
Owner Mayhoola Investments

Balmain (French: [balmɛ̃]) is a French fashion house that was founded by Pierre Balmain in 1946. In 2016 Mayhoola Investments, an investment fund backed by the emir of Qatar, acquired Balmain for a figure reported as close to €500 million ($563 million).[1]


Balmain was born in 1914 in France. His father owned a drapery business and his mother and sister owned a fashion boutique where he often worked after his father’s death in 1921. He attended the École des Beaux-Arts in 1933-1934 with intent to study architecture but instead ended up spending the majority of his time designing dresses. After working for atelier Robert Piquet as a freelance artist and spending time with Edward Molyneux, he left school to work for Molyneux. In the late 1930s, he served in the French air force and the army pioneer corps. After peace was declared, he worked at Lucien Lelong and opened his own fashion house under his name[2] at 44, rue François 1er in Paris. He released his first collection in October 1945 and his first fragrance, Jolie Madame in 1949.[3][4]

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

In the period following World War II, Pierre Balmain was "a king of French fashion" and outfitted stars including Ava Gardner and Brigitte Bardot, the Nicaraguan first lady Hope Portocarrero,[5] and Queen Sirikit of Thailand.


After Balmain's death in 1982, the house was led by Erik Mortensen, described by Vogue as "Pierre Balmain's right hand".[5] Mortensen had joined the house to work as Balmain’s assistant in 1951. After succeeding Balmain, Mortensen worked to maintain the brand aesthetic in the ever-living world of couture while still maintaining the progressive spirit of creativity in the fashion industry. He won two Golden Thimble awards, one for his Autumn/Winter collection of 83/84 and one for the Autumn/Winter collection of 87/88. He left the house in 1990. After his departure, designer Hervé Pierre took over until 1992 working as director of ready-to-wear and haute couture.

Possibly the most influential designer to take over at Balmain was Oscar de la Renta, who led the house between 1993 and 2002.[5] Already a fashion veteran before joining Balmain, De la Renta brought a famous face to the brand Balmain. He lived in New York City most of his life, although he was born in the Dominican Republic and became a naturalized United States citizen in 1971. He fit into the Balmain design aesthetic, with an eye for detail and classic silhouettes. He, like Balmain, preferred modest and simple design rather than extremely ornamental and flashy styles. Couture had been suffering at the time since it was an extremely impractical business, so Oscar joined the brand in order to challenge himself and to help it through the beginning of the decline of couture.[6]

After Oscar de la Renta’s departure Christophe Decarnin joined the house in 2005. Contrary to all the designers before him, Decarnin insisted on bringing the brand into the 21st century. He favored insanely expensive prices[citation needed] and flashy pieces that sharply contrasted with the label’s reputation for its classic and luxurious designs. He was considered a "star designer", and the brand became more about his star status than about its clothes.[7] In April 2011 Balmain announced that Decarnin was to be replaced by Olivier Rousteing.[8]

Rousteing had joined the company in 2009, after attending a prestigious French fashion school and working under Roberto Cavalli.[9] While he liked Decarnin’s aesthetic, he wanted to orient the label towards the finer aspects of French couture. At the time of his appointment, Rousteing was a relatively unknown designer, and has brought a much-needed fresh take on the brand’s aesthetic that remains to this day. He was credited with adding an Asian influence to the clothing, as Asia comprises a huge part of the brand’s buyers.[10]

Recent history[edit]

In 2015 H&M announced a collaboration with Balmain, making Balmain the 11th guest-designer collaboration.[11] In April 2016, Balmain opened its New York flagship store in Soho.[12]

As of 2012, 50% of the company's total income is from license royalties.[13]

Head designers of Balmain[edit]

From 1947 to 1976 Balmain's directrice (director) was Ginette Spanier.[14]


  1. ^ Valentino’s Qatari Owners Acquire Balmain JUNE 22, 2016
  2. ^ Emirates, Mall of the. "Shopping's never been better, Mall of the Emirates". 
  3. ^ “Balmain.” Vogue English. Accessed January 24, 2014.
  4. ^ English, Vogue. "Balmain". Vogue English. Retrieved 2017-09-30. 
  5. ^ a b c Yaeger, Lynn. "Balmain Nouveau." Vogue (October 2007), p254-56.
  6. ^ Duffy, Martha. “Mais Oui, Oscar!” Time 141, no. 6 (February 8, 1993): 68.
  7. ^ "Star Designer Leaves Balmain Fashion House". The New York Times. 7 April 2011. 
  8. ^ Horyn, Cathy. "Balmain Taps an Inside Man". 
  9. ^ Voight, Rebecca. "Olivier Rousteing Named New Designer at Balmain". 
  10. ^ “Exclusive Interview with Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing.” The D’Vine. Accessed January 26, 2014.
  11. ^ "News". 
  12. ^ "Balmain’s New York Flagship Is Finally Open For Business". Observer. 2016-04-05. Retrieved 2016-04-27. 
  13. ^ Chevalier, Michel (2012). Luxury Brand Management. Singapore: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1-118-17176-9. 
  14. ^ Rubinstein, William D.; Jolles, Michael; Rubinstein, Hilary L. (2011-03-15). The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 942. ISBN 9781403939104. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 

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