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Old Is New -- Part Deux

    Last week, I blogged about the Balenciaga label which has been resurgent in the 2000's and today's post is about another name that has gone through a similar journey...

    Pierre Balmain suit, 1952
    Photo Credit: Couture by Caroline Rennonlds Milbank

    French born, Pierre Balmain had no choice but to become a dress designer. Balmain’s father owned a wholesale drapery business while his mother operated a fashion boutique. Although Balmain studied architecture at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, he spent his time there designing dresses and did not complete his architectural studies. Instead, Balmain left school in 1934 to work for the fashion designer Edward Molyneux. He stayed with Molyneux until 1939, then joined Lucien Lelong after World War II and opened his own fashion house in 1945.

    Pierre Balmain coat, 1958-59
    Photo Credit: Couture by Caroline Rennonlds Milbank

    During the 1950's, Balmain became known as “the king of French fashion” making sheath dresses, tailored suits and sleek evening gowns. He created the image of an active and independent, yet elegant and coiffed woman which his famous fragrance “Jolie Madame” embodies. 

    Pierre Balmain, 1983
    Photo Credit: Couture by Caroline Rennonlds Milbank
    The 1960s was a strong decade for Balmain as he continued his concept of elegance and cultivated a clientele of royalty as well as famous starlets such as; Brigitte Bardot, Marlene Dietrich, Ava Gardner and Katherine Hepburn. The ready-to-wear division was founded in the 1970s and by 1972, Balmain had also designed costumes for 16 films.

    Pierre Balmain passed away in 1982 and creative control was turned over to Blamain’s “right hand,” Erik Mortensen. Mortensen left in 1990 and was replaced by Herve-Pierre who only held the position until 1993. Oscar de la Renta seemed like a logical choice to take over the classic and luxurious Balmain name and he signed on in 1993. Unfortunately, the brand struggled to compete and wasn’t being recognized as the “haute house” it once was.

    Balmain, Fall 2010
    Photo Credit: Firstview

    Balmain, Fall 2009
    Photo Credit: Firstview

     Maybe the Kaiser, Karl Lagerfeld, who worked under Balmain from 1955–1958, would have been able to revive the label, but he was obviously busy with other projects! So, designer Christophe Decarnin, came to the rescue in 2005 with a more modern and edgy vision. Decarnin infused a chic rocker vibe into his collections, drawing attention to and increasing the popularity of the Balmain label. Today, Balmain is one of the cool kids again.
    Balmain, Fall 2008
    Photo Credit: Firstview