Pierre Balmain was born in St Jean de Maurienne, Savoie, in 1914. After the end of the war, in the autumn of 1945, having studied under the greatest couturiers of the time, Molyneux and Lucien Lelong, he opened his own Couture house and set up business in the Rue François 1er. His female clientele flocked to see him and were delighted to discover the new image of woman that he had created. That woman had shrugged off the last remaining images of the war, with considerable and unashamed charm, and in doing so heralded a return to opulence and richly embroidered finery.
The American author Gertrude Stein, a great friend of Pierre Balmain, enthusiastically greeted the arrival of the “New French Style” in her writings. The image soon to emerge was that of an active, vivacious, immaculate and elegant woman with a hint of insouciance; it was the birth of the “Jolie Madame”, who symbolized the 1950s to perfection.
For Pierre Balmain, the 1960s were an occasion for renewal and the use of fabrics to explore pared-down shapes, in which structure acquired its full meaning. It involved a clashing and melding of new shapes and styles. It was also a sumptuous period for stage and theatre costumery. The couturier clothed numerous stars from within and outside France, including Brigitte Bardot, Marlène Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn, to name but a few. And it also marked a meeting with Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand, who appointed him as her exclusive couturier.
Pierre Balmain represented a certain idea of elegance and a clientele of queens, princesses and starlets, but as a label it was also very firmly established in the everyday world. The 1970s gave birth to the Ready-to-wear phenomenon, which secured a solid foothold in the market and which is currently producing some particularly satisfactory results with over 200 licences.
Pierre Balmain was dead on 29 june, 1982.