Balmain was founded in 1945 by Pierre Balmain. From the outset, Monsieur Balmain’s boldly feminine and opulent signature style offered a startling contrast to the utilitarian looks of the day, creating a distinctive, super-feminine DNA for the house, which relied on richly embroidered fabrics, nipped-in waists and longer, often fuller skirts—and quickly transforming the Parisian house into a favorite of both European and Hollywood royalty.
Balmain began his post-war career at the atelier of Lucien Lelong, where he worked alongside both Dior and Hubert de Givenchy. When he left to form his own house, success came rapidly, due in no small part to his mastery of couture techniques.
As the New York Times pointed out, Pierre Balmain was, “along with Cristobal Balenciaga, Jacques Fath and Christian Dior, one of the young Turks who revitalized Paris couture after the German occupation.”
Alice B Toklas wrote after Balmain’s presentation of his first collection, ''suddenly there was the awakening to a new understanding of what mode really was, the embellishment and the intensification of women's form and charm.''
As The Atlantic explained in 2015, “Balmain didn't really hit his stride until the 1950s, when his slim suits and strapless evening gowns with romantic bouffant skirts conquered the American market. Stars like Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, and Sophia Loren wore his designs onscreen and off, introducing them to a vast global audience.”
“The famous clients of Pierre Baimain are quite numerous,” wrote Le Monde in 1958. “We know that Lili Palmer wears nothing but his light wools for both day and night, while Ingrid Bergman is not so constrained and feels free to wear whichever of his designs tempt her… Finally, Brigitte Bardot, who may not rely on one particular dressmaker has attracted a lot of attention with the velvet dress, worn under a matching coat that Pierre Balmain created special for her.”
Over the decades, Balmain has always proudly remained true to the trailblazing spirit of its founder. Since Pierre Balmain’s death in 1982, his house has been guided by a series of strong designers, each balancing modern offerings with the need to respect the foundations and traditions of the house. In particular, Oscar de la Renta oversaw a decade of collections in the nineties that were inspired by the colors, fluidity and elegance of Balmain’s signature “Jolie Madame” aesthetic.