Vintage Balmain Blouse at IndySwank $24

By Annie Stultz

I was thrilled to find a Pierre Balmain red on red stripe blouse for the shop. The resurgence of the house in the past few seasons has made the label highly collectible these days. The rock n roll style of Balmain under the creative direction of Christophe Decarnin until 2011 and its current head designer, Olivier Rousteing, is a far cry from the classic, luxurious designs of Pierre Balmain, himself.

Pierre Balmain (1914-1982) was the French son of a wholesale drapery business owner and a fashion boutique operator.  He studied architecture at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, but left early to work at the house of Molyneux in 1934.  In 1945, he opened the house of Balmain, and by 1951, he was selling ready to wear in the US.

In the 1950’s, he popularized wearing the stole for day and evening attire, as well as wearing sheath dresses beneath long jackets. He designed simple tailored suits and grand evening gowns with the same slender, elegant lines. Like his contemporaries Cristobal Balenciaga and Pierre Cardin, Balmain utilized his architectural studies in experimental shapes during the 1960’s.

Until his death in 1982, Balmain designed for a conservative, sophisticated clientele. His “right hand”, Erik Mortensen, took over as head designer, followed by Oscar de La Renta in 1993.  The house was viewed as a label on life support until it’s resurrection by Christophe Decarnin, who took over after de la Renta, but didn’t hit his creative boom until 2007.

Decarnin introduced a modern and edgy look full of tight pants, tattered t-shirts, military jackets dripping with sequins and chains, metallics, and 1980’s Azzedine Alaia references. The S/S 2009 collection launched the house into Balenciaga and Chanel caliber popularity.

Decarnin's influence

After missing the A/W 2011 show due to exhaustion, Decarnin left in February 2011 and was replaced by 24 year old Oliver Rousteing, who had worked under Decarnin for 2 years. In his S/S 2012 show, Rousteing perpetuated the “babes in beads look” of his predecessor and stylist Emannuelle Alt, but  used elaborate embroidery and softer colors/fabrics to “bring the class of de la Renta and Balmain back to the house.”

The new designer received polar reviews of his first collection. Journalists, buyers, and editors look forward to seeing how Rousteing works out the kinks, while satisfying the established client and appealing to a new one.

Vintage Balmain is becoming more and more collectible with its reinvention. Pick up a piece of the house’s history at Indyswank!

Ms. Stultz is the Manager/Creative Director at IndySwank

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