The Balmain Fit, the Label’s Emblematic Code

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This brand on 44 rue François 1er would quickly become one of the paragons of French couture. At the dawning of a new modernity, Pierre Balmain designed the silhouette of a powerful and curvy woman in on-point and elaborate volumes. Shoulder pads, a belt, a cinched waist – the elements for the Balmain equation are tied to the founder’s architecture background. Pierre Balmain always had this architectural eye in mind: “Couture is the architecture of movement,” he would often say. The couturier imagined his dresses belted to highlight the body in movement. “There’s certainly a large relationship between the activities of an architect and those of a couturier. The fact that one builds in stone and the other in chiffon, that one’s ambition is to brave the centuries and the other to create for just one season, doesn’t mean there are any fundamental differences.” Soon, suits with a straight and sober cut, long ball gowns, pea jackets, ermine evening skirts, and panther pants would become iconic pieces in a time when Hollywood was playing the role of brand ambassador. All over the planet, women were perfected in tight-waisted skirts that undeniably marked the shoulders and highlighted the waist and bust.

With the arrival of a new century, Balmain’s fashion got an update just as its creative direction did. Christophe Decarnin laid the foundations for the Balmain 2.0 look. In their August 2009 edition, Vogue Paris spoke of “clubbing couture” – ultra-fitted dresses undulating down to the millimeter, made in extremely opulent fabrics. The founder’s work with designs and fitting was further honed: the silhouette was ultra-drawn, with the hips encased to the max. Glamorous and sexy, Olivier Rousteing’s Balmain woman would get wrapped up in meters of airy fabric which, marvelously cut through the brand’s savoir-faire, offered a more powerful side. The fabrics redrew the lines of the body like armor. Balmain is sexy but never vulgar. With a perfect graphic approach to the body and pieces of a woman’s calibre, the fitting is most impressive here.

The Rousteing look is baroque, maximal, glamorous, and proud. Without rigorous tailoring, it would be impossible to achieve such magic on the body. “She’s a woman of character with self-assumed femininity,” the creative director reminds us. This woman finds her second skin in Balmain pieces that magnify her shapes. “My girls want to be sexy, they want to take risks. They push their limits. […] I want to show that women are women and not hide them behind makeup or with weird shapes. I’m simply trying to show that I’m proud of having real and strong women with real and strong characters on the catwalk.” These women wander the streets and the catwalk alike with the confidence of wearing what works with their body. This is the secret of Balmain chic: a drastic fit that’s alluringly excellent.

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