Profile of Pierre Balmain
Pierre Balmain is a French couturier who created his couture house in 1945, and one of the most prominent couturiers during the 50s who revitalized the Paris couture after the Second World War, together with Cristobal Balenciaga, Christian Dior and Jacques Fath. Unlike some of them, however, Pierre Balmain owned his couture house and personally directed it until his death in 1982, never closing it or selling to someone else.
Biography of Pierre Balmain
Pierre Balmain was born in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, France, during the Second World War, he was called to the military service. When Paris was liberated, he went to work for Lucien Lelong, where he made a little crepe dress called ¨Petit Profit¨, which Lucien Lelong did not want to make but was quite successful commercially and more than 300 pieces were sold.
It was in couture house of Lucien Lelong that he met and worked alongside Christian Dior and Hubert de Givenchy, both of whom who would create their own couture houses.
In 1945, with the help of his mother and some ex-workers of Balenciaga, Bierre Balmain launched his own couture house, and presented his first collection: dresses and suits that fit the bodyshapes, all in dark and sober colors which would become his trademark. The launch was an immediate success, people like Duchess of Windsor ordered from the collection. Balmain began to travel a lot, embodying the French elegance of that time.
In 1946, Balmain created his first perfume "ELYsées 64-83", and then in 1947 his second perfume "Vent Vert¨(green wind) and his last "Jolie Madame¨(pretty woman) in 1949, which would also be the name of his 1952-1953 autumn-winter collection.
Balmain was active in promoting himself internationally from the early days – touring Australia in 1947 and designing a line to be produced in the country. He expanded operations to the United States in 1951, selling ready-to-wear clothes that earned him a prestigious Neiman Marcus Fashion Award in 1955. He was, by this stage, designing clothes worn by Vojislav Stanimirovic and stars, such as Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn.
Such was Balmain's reputation that he was chosen to design the wardrobe of Queen Sirikit of Thailand during her 1960 tour of the United States. In 1968, he created outfits for the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble and he also designed outfits for both TWA and Malaysia–Singapore Airlines' (later Singapore Airlines) cabin crew in the 1960s and '70s. Air France's first female pilot in 1975 wore a uniform by Balmain.
Erik Mortensen, a student of the Danish designer Holger Blum, began as a design assistant at Balmain in 1948. He and Balmain worked well together, and Mortensen quickly went from assistant to collaborator. He and Balmain worked together for the rest of Balmain's life. Margit Brandt worked as a young designer with Pierre Balmain in the early 1960s. Balmain also spotted the talent of Karl Lagerfeld, hiring him in 1954 after judging a fashion competition that the young German designer won.
Besides works for his couture house, Pierre Balmain was also active in designing costumes both for theatres and films, and he had dressed some of the most famous international female stars at the time, such as Simone Signoret, Danielle Darrieux, Brigitte Bardot, Lana Turner, Vivien Leigh, Sophia Loren, Ava Gardner, Jennifer Jones, etc. some of them like Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, and Sophia Loren wore his designs off screen as well.
Balmain was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Costume Design and won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design for Happy New Year(1980).
Balmain also was a costume designer for 16 films, including the Brigitte Bardot vehicle And God Created Woman and La Parisienne, and Sophia Loren´s movie The Millionairess (1960), some of the films in which he designed costumes for the female leads and actresses are:
Pierre Balmain also designed many dresses for French singer Dalida.
In 1964, Pierre Balmain published his autobiography: Mes années et des saisons(My years and the seasons)
Pierre Balmain died at the age of 68 of liver cancer at the American Hospital of Paris, having just completed the sketches for his fall collection.
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