In the period following World War II, Pierre Balmain was “a king of French fashion” and outfitted stars including Ava Gardner and Brigitte Bardot and the Nicaraguan first lady Hope Portocarrero.His most famous client was Queen Sirikit of Thailand. After Pierre Balmain’s death in 1982, the house was led by Erik Mortensen, described by Vogue as Pierre Balmain’s “right hand.” Oscar de la Renta led the house between 1993 and 2002. Under Pierre Balmain, Mortensen, and de la Renta, the house was known for its classic, luxurious designs.Until 2011, the house was led by designer Christophe Decarnin, whose vision for the house is more modern and edgier. In April 2011, the fashion house announced that Decarnin was succeeded by Olivier Rousteing.
Around 2008 and 2009, the clothing line became extremely popular both among fashion magazines, runways and celebrities. His 2010 collection, shown during Paris fashion week, was said to be “totally retro” and “[brought] back the glitz and glitter of the 1970s disco era.”
Balmain’s father, who died when the future designer was seven years old, was the owner of a wholesale drapery business. His mother and her sisters operated a fashion boutique. Balmain studied architecture at the École 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 1950s, 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 Indonesian 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 Phone Number, 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. He made a lot of dresses for Dalida.