The Military, Balmain’s Key Inspiration

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Many are unaware that Pierre Balmain was a fervent traveller – the couturier took his inspirations from the four corners of the Earth. In Australia, the U.S., South America, and Africa, the world was an ideal terrain for Pierre Balmain’s creativity to explore. Safari jackets, cargo vests, and military uniforms all inspired him, and in 1950 he put leopard fur in his collections. In 1953, fur would also compose stoles and oversize sleeves. Ostrich feathers brightened up hats and the neck, for instance in a 1956 style. Later on Balmain would open his creative horizons and create the uniforms for the Singapore Airlines Singapore Girl. But it would take the arrival of Christophe Decarnin to see military inspiration dazzle audiences and launch trends for the entire decade.

Military brandenburg jackets still symbolize the attraction of Balmain style today. In 2006 French designer Christophe Decarnin arrived at the head of Balmain’s creative direction with a marked return to their origins – nourished by military and punk rock influences, his successive collections brought a number of pieces into the ranks of absolute fashion icon. Shoulder pads, large gold zippers, leather, and sparkling embellishments boldly came together with helmets and khaki military pants, t-shirts with holes in them and crystal. Balmain’s couture gracefully espouses the inspiration of a combative woman. Balmain style is becoming radical, like a uniform. Under the direction of the extremely popular Christophe Decarnin, Olivier Rousteing learned how to breathe new life into a couture house – his pieces are urban and thus timeless, but here the flamboyance of Balmain is expressed through embroideries and embellishments, all with a sexy and nonchalant rock’n’roll attitude.

This season, Olivier Rousteing created a Fall/Winter 2017 collection that’s completely anchored in this spirit. The Balmain Army takes flight for a savagely studied winter – with exotic hides and braids, camel and khaki, the power of movement and the silhouettes are anchored in the idea of a safari largely inspired by Pierre Balmain’s past, that was also anchored in its own time. Minutely worked, Balmain’s new military look is defined in the following terms by the late Franca Sozzani for Italian Vogue: “Balmain women are like warriors, they like a challenge, they like risk! They take the risk of being cool in a different way.” The key piece for this Fall/Winter 2017-2018 collection is overflowing with stylistic references as savage as they are fascinating. Encrusted with gold chains, sprinkled with garnet pearls or matte gold sequins, sparkling velvet, coats of arms and other motifs… The Balmain woman expresses herself through her gait, but also through this military inspiration that’s a testament to her allure and glamour.

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