The Power Of Travel
The House Foundations
75 years ago, after the incredible triumph of his house’s first couture presentation, what was the first thing that Pierre Balmain did?
He packed his bags and started traveling.
He jetted off to America, not to talk about collections, but instead, following the directive of his friend Gertrude Stein, to act as a roving ambassador, criss-crossing the entire United States to deliver lectures on French culture and savoir-faire. He also jumped across the Channel, transporting his fresh new feminine take on couture to London, six years after the war had abruptly put an end to all imports of Parisian fashion. And, after an eight-day, multi-stop series of flights across half the globe, he touched down in Australia, bringing news of his “New French Style” to Down Under (and, of course, making sure to include a visit to the Sydney suburb of Balmain)!
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Now, post-pandemic, it’s a whole lot easier for us to appreciate just how exciting those trips must have been for Pierre Balmain. After the anxious years of war and occupation, he was suddenly being offered the long-denied possibility of escaping to destinations that he had been dreaming about for years—and it must have felt incredible.
A CONSTANT INSPIRATION
Pierre Balmain’s non-stop travels to Asia, the Americas, Africa, Australia and all parts of Europe had a clear influence in his many collections, inspiring him to introduce new colors, fabrics and techniques to traditional Parisian couture.
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STILL INSPIRING THE HOUSE
Olivier Rousteing’s collection for Fall 2021 reflected on Pierre Balmain’s singular love of escaping. Taking place during lockdown, it could only be shown before a handful of followers—who all understood more than ever the lure of travel. Set inside the enormous Air France hangers at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, the collection saluted the brave spirit early pilots and astronauts.. It also highlighted the exceptional skills and commitment to excellence shared by airplane engineers, technicians and Balmain’s artisans, with the collection’s intricate embroideries inspired by the wiring, construction and mechanics of the sleek planes and engines that played key roles in that collection’s presentation.
AIR BALMAIN (FALL 2021)
The house’s collection and the beautiful video presentation aimed to channel that amazing sensation of freedom, The moment reminded all of us of the impressive power of travel to open minds, uplift spirits and reunite those who have been kept apart—as we all looked forward to soon-to-arrive better days, post-pandemic.
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BALMAIN TRAVEL ACCESSORIES
Just as you’d expect, accessories formed an important part of the Air Balmain collection, (exactly as they during actual trips), with a wide range of new offerings from the house. The many soft and structured carry-ons were covered with a dazzling array of color and fabric plays on Balmain’s relaunched Labyrinth print, and there were many clever takes on bags that look to compasses, paper airplanes and even travel neck pillows for inspiration.
A FAMILY INSPIRATION
Balmain’s collection of luggage and trunks finds inspiration in the beautiful trunks that Pierre Balmain’s grandfather, Alexandre Balmain, carried on his shoulders across Europe, more than 150 years ago. Alexandre built Balmain family fortune by traveling across central Europe in the 1800s, with his trunk full of merchandise, offering a selection of jewelry, ribbons and hardware to French, Swiss and German customers. Alexandre must have possessed great strength, since somehow he managed to carry his large trunk on his shoulders as he traveled, town to town, client to client—and that impressive container, with its 12 drawers, weighed 20kgs (44lbs) when empty—and it could weigh as much as 60kgs (133lbs) when full.
THE BALMAIN 1945 TRUNK COLLECTION
To launch Balmain’s new collection of trunks and travel accessories, Olivier Rousteing and his team looked back to classic house styles from the time of Pierre Balmain. They also turned to some of France’s greatest artisans, relying on master ebenistes (wood craftsmen) and master gainiers (fabric fitters). As one would expect, they worked with only the highest category of materials—including beautifully grained, satin-finished American Walnut wood and flawlessly smooth and supple calfskin. The collection’s smaller offerings, like Balmain’s other bags, have been created by Italy’s finest leather craftsmen.
BALMAIN AND THE US
Balmain’s strong connections with the United States was highlighted in many French news reports of the time, as the press covered his many travels to Los Angeles, New York and towns and cities all across the country. These travels were something that his good friends Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas had advised him to do, since they knew there would be a big audience in their country for Balmain’s unique perspectives on couture, history and French savoir-faire.