Thursday, March 4, 2010

When French couturier Pierre Balmain founded his house in 1945, he, Christian Dior, and Cristobal Balenciaga were the design giants responsible for reenergizing lavish couture dressing after World War II. Balmain’s elegant, super-feminine looks were favorites among European royalty and Hollywood fashion plates like Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, and Sophia Loren. Since Balmain’s death in 1982, the glory days have dwindled. His assistant, Erik Mortensen, took over until 1990, and two years later, Oscar de la Renta joined the house. De la Renta designed Balmain couture from 1993 to 2002, and Laurent Mercier took over in 2003. But the house soon fell into financial hard times and was forced to file for bankruptcy. Investors revived Balmain in 2005, and brought on designer Christophe Decarnin, fresh from a decade's work at Paco Rabanne. And for a label that was once known for ultraelegant evening attire with a draping and pleating focus, Decarnin's appointment took it toward tough-chic, thigh-grazing, body-skimming looks—a sensibility that embraces the quintessential trendsetting French party-girl. Owner Alain Hivelin claims that sales have doubled since Decarnin's appointment, projecting 2009 to amass $28 million in revenue (the clothes are notoriously expensive—a sparkly tee is $3,000, dresses are $12,000 to $22,000, and jackets are $5,000). Expansions are also in the works, adding staff, a shoe line with Giuseppe Zanotti, and the label's first men's collection in Paris in January 2009.

Critics' Favorite, Established
Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, Sofia Coppola, Audrey Tautou, Carine Roitfeld
Other Product Lines
Fragrances, Handbags, Jeans, Shoes
Owned By
Alain Hivelin
44, rue François Premier Paris, France 75008 Tel: 33-1-47-20-35-34
Where To Buy
Jeffrey New York
Related Websites
  • The Collection

    Designed By
    Christophe Decarnin, Fall 2006 - Present Laurent Mercier, Fall 2002 - Spring 2003 Oscar de la Renta, 1993 - 2002 Herve Pierre, 1990 - 1992 Erik Mortensen, 1982 - 1990 Pierre Balmain, 1945 - 1982
    Shows In
    Collection Types
    Similar Clientele
    Balenciaga, Givenchy
    Styles & Tags
    Especially Detailed, Feminine, French, High Fashion, Red Carpet, Trendsetters