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Pierre Balmain and the actress Ruth Ford, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1947

Pierre Alexandre Claudius Balmain (b. Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, Savoie, May 18, 1914 – Paris, France, June 29, 1982) was a French fashion designer. Known for sophistication and elegance, he once said that "dressmaking is the architecture of movement."

Balmain's father, who died when the future designer was 7 years old, was the owner of a wholesale drapery business. His mother and her sisters operated a fashion boutique. Balmain studied architecture at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, but did not complete his studies. He spent his time there designing dresses. While attending the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Balmain went to Molyneux, who promised to give him a trial. Balmain then left his architectural studies to work for the fashion designer Edward Molyneux, for whom he worked from 1934 until 1939. He joined Lucien Lelong after World War II and opened his own fashion house in 1945. The house showcased long bell-shaped skirts with small waists - a line which later became popular as Dior's New Look. In 1951 he opened branches in the United States selling ready-to-wear clothes. During the 1950's, Balmain popularized the stole for day as well as evening wear and created a vogue for sheath dresses beneath jackets. His talent as a designer lay in his ability to make simple, tailored suits as well as grand evening gowns, all with the same aesthetic of slender and elegant lines. Balmain also designed the iconic uniform of the Singapore Airlines Singapore Girl, loosely based on the traditional Malay kebaya.

Balmain also created perfumes, including Vent Vert (1947), his first successful scent and one of the best-selling perfumes of the late 1940s and early 1950s, Jolie Madame (1953), Ivoire (1979), and Eau d'Amazonie (2006). His first perfume, launched in 1947, bore his company's address, Elysées 64-83.

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). Additional Broadway theatre credits include costumes for Sophia Loren in The Millionairess (1960) and Josephine Baker for her eponymous 1964 revue. He also was a costume designer for 16 films, including the Brigitte Bardot vehicle And God Created Woman, and designed on-screen wardrobes for the actresses Vivien Leigh and Mae West.

Balmain's 1964 autobiography was titled My Years and Seasons.

His companion was the Danish designer Erik Mortensen, who worked as a designer at Balmain from 1948 until 1991. Also the later very successful Danish fashion designer Margit Brandt worked as a young designer with Pierre Balmain in the early 1960's.

Balmain was mentioned in Peter Sarstedt's 1969 hit song "Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)".

Awards
Preceded by
Patricia Zipprodt
for King of Hearts
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design
1979-1980
for Happy New Year
Succeeded by
Patricia McGourty
for The Pirates of Penzance

See also

External links

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