Building upon a strong foundation
An Audacious, Architectural Silhouette
The house’s rich archives make clear that Pierre Balmain’s early training as an architect shaped his work—and that awe-inspiring collection of several decades’ worth of sketches, press clippings, videos and creations provides Olivier Rousteing with countless inspirations for Balmain’s 21st-century runways.
The signature elements of Pierre Balmain’s unmistakable silhouette—the strict tailoring, cinched waists, strong shoulders, perfect pleating, elaborate volumes—can all be traced back to his early architectural training. Balmain often underlined the connection between his two obsessions.
“There is definitely a close relationship between the work of an architect and that of the couturier. The fact that one builds in stone and the other relies on muslin, that one aims to last for centuries and the other for only one season—those do not constitute essential differences.”
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A FASHION TURNING POINT
The audacity of Pierre Balmain’s first collection won the designer unanimous praise from the era’s leading fashion critics—but it was Balmain’s close friend, the American writer Alice B. Toklas, who most memorably summed up the moment. Toklas recognized the 1945 show for marking a turning point in fashion, and she proclaimed Balmain to be postwar Paris fashion’s trailblazer, responsible for introducing a startling, fresh and needed new vision that she entitled “A New French Style.”
THE BIRTH OF A NEW FRENCH STYLE
“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. A dress was no longer to serve as a more or less decorated usefulness but to once again become a thing of beauty, to express elegance grace and delicacy in silk and wool, in lace, feathers and flowers.”
Alice B Toklas - A New French Style - 1946
THE JOLIE MADAME SILHOUETTE
In 1949, Balmain created Jolie Madame, the house’s first perfume, which is described as capturing “the scent of adventure for evenings of passion and enchantment.” The new scent proved to be so popular that Pierre Balmain named his Fall 1952 collection “Jolie Madame” in its honor. That collection built directly upon Balmain’s fresh, bold and feminine New French Style and the name soon became a way to referring to the house’s precisely tailored, perfectly embellished and quintessentially Parisian style.
A NEW NEW FRENCH STYLE
Olivier Rousteing has been carefully building upon the legacy of Pierre Balmain’s “New French Style.” Beginning with inspirations directly pulled from the house’s rich archives and fully utilizing the Balmain atelier’s impressive mastery of intricate traditional couture techniques, Rousteing has been able to skillfully graft his own distinctive style upon the historic house. He is, in fact, creating a modern and inclusive new New French Style—one which melds together an immediately recognizable singular silhouette, a contemporary outlook reflecting Rousteing’s own extraordinary personal journey and a spirit pulled directly from the avenues and boulevards of a transformed-yet-eternal Paris, the dynamic and diverse fashion capital that has influenced every Balmain collection for over 75 years.
AN INCREDIBLE ARCHIVE, AN ENDLESS INSPIRATION
“When I first interviewed at Balmain, my soon-to-be-colleagues explained that this was a “sleeping giant” of a house, resting upon a wealth of forgotten riches. But it wasn’t until I was first presented with our archive’s vast collection of sketches, press clippings, videos and creations that I actually began to understand what they were talking about. The richness of that vast collection of past sketches, clippings, videos and creations blew me away 13 years ago. And it still does today.”
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THE ARCHITECTURE OF MOVEMENT
Olivier Rousteing constantly relies upon archival inspirations to channel Pierre Balmain’s mastery of construction for today’s modern runways. Famously, Balmain summed up his incomparable talent for ensuring that his perfectly tailored couture creations closely follow the curves of a moving body by proclaiming “la couture est l’architecture du mouvement” (dressmaking is the architecture of movement). That same impressive structural spirit sets apart Rousteing’s collections today.
AN AMPLIFIED SILHOUETTE
From Pierre Balmain's fresh and feminine New French Style to Olivier Rousteing's impressively modern new New French Style, all house designs are clearly linked, with each channeling an instantly identifiable and common spirit and outlook. The founder’s signature silhouette owed its immediate popularity to an audacious rejection of the utilitarian looks of the day. Olivier Rousteing's distinctive tailoring—often relying on powerful shoulders and highlighted waists—is just as groundbreaking and bold, resulting in a silhouette that often seems as amplified as the rock music that inspires many of the house collections.
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AN ALWAYS RECOGNIZABLE BALMAIN SPIRIT AND SILHOUETTE
Daring, eye-catching, sensual and always empowering, Olivier Rousteing’s body-con designs are unmistakable—even from a distance, few have a problem ID’ing a Balmain. Balmain’s powerful lines are a clear signature of the house.
INSPIRED BY THE PAST, DESIGNING FOR TODAY
“In his speeches, in his writings—and, more importantly, in decade after decade of creations—Pierre Balmain often highlighted one very important truth: Finding inspiration from the past is—of course—necessary… but a fashion designer should never attempt to simply duplicate a vintage creation. Instead, as Monsieur Balmain stressed over and over again, we must always ensure that previous decades’ designs are adapted and updated to reflect the modern needs and the distinctive tastes of each new generation. And that is what my team and I have always aimed to do, season after season.”
PHOTO PIERRE BALMAIN AND HOUSE MODEL, 1953:© BALMAIN PARIS, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
ALL BALMAIN 1950 COUTURE COLLECTIONS SKETCHES:©BALMAIN PARIS, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED