Pierre Balmain studied architecture in Paris – his designs, dresses, fashion, were a pass-time that he liked to indulge in. The two disciplines were thus often linked in his work – in his drawings can be read the spirit of an architect seeking the perfect composition around a body. His early dresses appear very cinched, giving more femininity to a line that would quickly distinguish the belt as a key accessory in this very sought-after equation. In the post-war context, the belt symbolized more than just a marked waist – it was for Pierre Balmain an accessory that was supposed to demonstrate that women had evolved, that their status had brought them to be just as powerful as men. The couturier also liked “good statures”, and belting outfits was a way to highlight a woman’s curves. It was in 1952 in the “Jolie Madame” collection that belts first appeared on the Balmain runway. Ever since, his predecessors have never ceased to play with this accessory to fabricate what is today the brand’s telltale silhouette.
The belt has been a constant for several seasons. For Balmain, the waist is always just as slim, almost strangled in large belts that create voluptuous curves. When he took over the brand’s artistic direction in 2011, Olivier Rousteing reunited with Pierre Balmain’s heritage – by reinterpreting a number of codes, he once more updated the aesthetics of this legendary brand on rue François 1er. Glamorous and sexy, Olivier Rousteing brought the belt into the ranks of an essential trend. His mantra was clear: highlight women. Balmain gives this new woman strength in ultra-luxurious belts that make her confident, conquering, and highly seductive. He marked the waist, brought out the bust, and composed very structured pieces that were spectacularly dense. On the hottest models of the day, from Cara Delevingne to Jourdan Dunn, Rousteing puts glamazon pieces that are still touched up by this mainstay accessory. Always loyal to the style of Pierre Balmain, he often plunges into the founder’s archives.
The height of this homage is without a doubt the Spring/Summer 2017 collection, with an ensemble that largely featured outfits with huge belts, medals of an affirmed luxury. “Balmain is luxury that can be seen and assumed,” explains Rousteing. The key element for this label is still found in noble, rare fabrics, corsets, peplum tails, and high and visible braids. Safari jackets are held at the waist by a thick belt: once night comes, this glamorous warrior dresses in python colored in shades of red, green, and blue. Slipped into a number of different fabrics, sometimes above or below caftans, the belt is definitively the connecting thread for every Balmain collection.