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About the Designer
Pierre Alexandre Claudius Balmain (18 May 1914 – Paris, France, 29 June 1982) was a French fashion designer and founder of leading post-war fashion house Balmain. Known for sophistication and elegance, he described the art of dressmaking as “the architecture of movement.”
Balmain began studying architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1933, also undertaking freelance work drawing for the designer Robert Piguet. After visiting the studio of Edward Molyneux in 1934, he was offered a job, leaving his studies and working for the designer for the succeeding five years. He joined Lucien Lelong during World War II – where he met the young designer Christian Dior.
The fashion house of Balmain opened in 1945. Initially it showcased long bell-shaped skirts with small waists – a post-war style that was popularised in 1947 as Dior’s New Look. The first collection was showcased in Vogue in the November issue and the reviewer’s reaction was that Balmain delivered: “beautiful clothes that you really want to wear”. A positive write-up in the magazine from Balmain’s friend Gertrude Stein helped to seal the designer’s success – early celebrity fans included the Duchess of Windsor who ordered from the collection.