BALMAIN,
Born Aix-les-Bains. France, 1914.
Died
Paris, France. 1982.

No laide was ever more jolie than the one lucky enough to be wrapped in the elegantly glamorous luxury of a Balmain outfit. He studied at Grenoble University before going to Paris to read architecture. He had already determined to be a dress designer and, after several rebuffs, managed to sell three designs to PIGUET. He then joined MOLYNEUX, initially working for him only in the afternoons, but soon becoming a full-time designer, a post he held for five years. In 1941 he moved to Lucien LELONG, where he worked with DIOR in such harmony that they contemplated opening a house together. This did not happen and Balmain opened alone in 1946, to immediate praise. One of his friends and supporters, unlikely as it sounds, was Gertrude Stein. She, at least, had the wit to realize how bizarre it was for her and her friend, Alice B. Toklas, to be involved in such a glamorous and unintellectual world as that of high fashion, but their loyalty to him was intense.
Handsome, ambitious, fond of high life and exotic travel, Balmain and his clothes have always appealed to ladies of a certain age, as the French so tactfully put it, and his success has been considerable. At his apogee as a purveyor of glamorous clothing to the rich in the 1950s and 1960s, he dressed queens, statesmen’s wives, stars, and virtually all the members of the international set. In addition, he designed air hostesses’ uniforms and created costumes for many plays and films, including his memorable wardrobe for Katharine Hepburn in the stage production of The Millionairess. His design credo was that dressmaking is the architecture of movement. Balmain continued for a long time as a major French designer, although he ceased to be newsworthy after the demise of couture in the early 1970s.
Major perfumes: Vent Vert (1945); Jolie Madame (1953); Miss Balmain (1967); Ivoire (1979).