THE FIRST BALMAIN SHOW
Pierre Balmain’s life changed radically the fall of 1945. That was when the young designer chose to schedule his new house’s first couture presentation to the public, held inside the salon of his new headquarters at 44, rue de François Premier, in the center of Paris’ famed “Golden Triangle” luxury neighborhood.
A BRIEF FASHION MOMENT
That first Balmain presentation was a brief fashion moment, which highlighted just a few dozen designs—but it helped to introduce a new, golden age of post-war Parisian couture, while also establishing the firm foundations that the house of Balmain continues to build upon today.
This house video of a 1982 retrospective moment created in homage to Pierre Balmain after his death focuses on a few of those 1945 designs. It makes clear why that first show was such an astounding success.
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LUXURY AND SIMPLICITY
Pierre Balmain’s first designs could be summed up in two words: luxury and simplicity.
There’s a very long and slender spirit that’s easy to notice—even the pleated skirts managed to remain very slender. It’s all about softness and femininity—shoulders are natural, waists are cinched and there’s lots of skillful draping
To provide a bit of contrast to the collection’s slim pants and sheaths, for evening Balmain threw in some full-skirted styles, as well.
In the December 1, 1945 issue of Vogue, Gertrude Stein—the intellectual giant who had an incomparable talent for seeking out and championing some of the greatest talents of the twentieth century (including Matisse, Picasso and Hemingway)—was thrilled to present her first fashion revelation to the public.
Stein and her partner, Alice B Toklas, had been seated in the front row of Balmain’s first show and Stein’s two-page Vogue review of that collection was the first and only fashion review that Stein ever authored. While her text is filled with great praise for Balmain— explaining that his “extraordinary success” was “the news of Paris couture this season” and describing his style as one of “freshness and excellent taste”—more than anything it seems that Gertrude Stein wanted to underline the special history that she and Toklas shared with fashion’s newest star. She emphasized their long friendship—which had begun during the darkest days of the occupation—and she made very clear the incredible pride she felt in being among the very first to recognize Pierre Balmain’s incredible talent.
Alice B Toklas published her own take on Pierre Balmain’s initial presentation. Overflowing with praise for the new collection and entitled “A New French Style,” Toklas’ essay makes very clear that Balmain had provided a pathway for a post-war rebirth for Parisian fashion.
“Suddenly there was the awakening to a new understanding of what mode really was, the embellishment and the intensification of women's form and charm. A dress was no longer to serve as a more or less decorated usefulness but to once again become a thing of beauty, to express elegance grace and delicacy in silk and wool, in lace, feathers and flowers.” Alice B Toklas A New French Style 1946