Balmain is a fashion house that was founded by Pierre Balmain, who was known as "king of French fasihon" and outfitted stars including Ava Gardner and Brigitte Bardot and the Nicaraguan first lady Hope Portocarrero.
With the death of Pierre Balmain in 1982, the torch was passed to Erik Mortensen - his personal assistant since 1951 and his closest colaborator - who maintained the House's traditions while developing and updating styles and designs in the spirit of its founder.
When Erik Mortensen left the House of Balmain in July 1990, he was replaced by youthful Herve-Pierre, who served as designer from 1990 through 1993 for both the Haute Couture and ready-to-wear collections.
In 1993, Oscar de la Renta took over the couture design for Balmain. He presented collections for Balmain for nearly 10 years, which were very successful. Oscar presented his last collection for Balmain in July 2002.
In December 2001 Swiss-born Laurent Mercier (born 1966) took over Balmain ready-to-wear. Mercier is a witty and talented designer, whose own signature collection won critical acclaim. In November 2002, he was also appointed Artistic Director of Balmain Haute Couture division also. A surprise announcement in June 2003 from Balmain, said that Laurent Mercier will no longer be their designer. They would not be showing their couture collection in July as expected.
In August, an announcement was made that Christophe Lebourg (born 1963) would be the new Artistic Director for Balmain. He made his debut during Paris Spring 2004 season.
The company hit troubled times during 2004, lasting for two years wherein during that time it was forced to file bankruptcy.
After two years of hiatus from the catwalk, Balmain came back during the Fall 2006 Paris ready-to-wear season (Feb 2006) under a new Creative Director Christophe Decarnin.
In 2001 the House of Balmain was pleased to announce the appointment of Olivier Rousteing as its new Designer. Mr. Rousteing will supervise the design and development of the brand’s men’s and women’s ready-to-wear collections.
The name Pierre Balmain stands for a unique concept of elegance, a clientele of royalty and film stars, and a fashion hallmark recognized throughout the world. Vogue declared that „eventful skirts“ were his speciality; they were often embellished with embroidered motifs such as leaves, cherries or scrolls. Balmain’s full-skirted silhouette was part of the new post-war luxury. His dresses were always carefully constructed. Signature details included drapery or a bow across the shoulders and fur hoods, muffs or trims.
Balmain designed personal wardrobes for numerous international stars, including Brigitte Bardot, Marlene Dietrich, and Katherine Hepburn - to name just a few. In addition Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand chose him to be her personal couturier.