Saturday 25 February 2017

Paul Galvin: Balmain's new more affordable line

Paul Galvin

HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Actress Halle Berry attends the premiere of 'Frankie and Alice' at the Egyptian Theatre on November 30, 2010 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Actress Halle Berry attends the premiere of 'Frankie and Alice' at the Egyptian Theatre on November 30, 2010 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/WireImage)

If I were a girl, I'd be a Balmain girl. A little bit rock star, a little bit rebel and a little bit loaded. I'd need to be, to wear the look. The French fashion house is legendary for its expensive prices.

But that's enough from my inner androgen -- I could always just be a Balmain man; there's little difference in the looks today. Balmain menswear is a big favourite of mine.

Spring/Summer 2012 is bound to be copied a lot on the high street. The usual great tailoring plus skinny jeans with padded panels, fitted blazers, vests with leather appliqués and hooded waistcoats are all fresh and exciting.

I expect River Island and Zara to really nail the look.

There is quite a difference between what Balmain is today and what it was when it was founded in Paris in 1945 by Pierre Balmain. He was responsible for a new, silhouette that post-war women were waiting for. Something new and exciting through which they could express themselves and move on from the trauma and drudgery of the war years.

Though his contemporary Christian Dior is credited historically with this new look, Balmain was the first to pioneer it.

Pierre's voluminous proportions and heavy fabrics gave way to Christophe Decarnin's cleaner lines and slimmer silhouette, though the importance of structure remains strong due to Pierre's background in architecture.

How newly appointed creative director Olivier Rousteing interprets the look will be keenly dissected by magazine editors and bloggers alike. His 2012 resort collection was well received, with lots of tribal prints and nods to Elvis Presley.

Historically, Pierre Balmain created a whole new direction in womenswear post-Second World War.

Long, wide tulle skirts with slim waists and wide-shouldered jackets worn over sheath dresses were pieces of the new order for a generation of women who wanted something different. This new-look silhouette was it.

In the intervening years, Balmain lost some of its prestige, and but for Decarnin's appointment in 2006 it may still be in the wilderness. It was he who revived their fortunes, bringing modernity with his use of denim, leather, sequins and experiments with lengths, while still incorporating elements of the house's history.

Structured shoulders and a sense of uniformity are what Balmain is famous for. That uniformity is often criticised and dismissed as boring among fashion experts, yet it is the reason I like the label.

Surely, knowing what you're going to get is what you want from a label? It's the same reason I love The Kooples and Hedi Slimane's Dior Homme. Uniformity is what I want.

For what it's worth, Decarnin's last collection featured jeans, leather trousers, shorts, skirts, leather jackets, denim jackets, blazers, T-shirts, heels and boots. Plenty of variety. Because I love the rock chick look, therefore I love the Balmain girl.

I'm sorry to see Decarnin depart. He created a new Balmain girl for the Noughties. She was young and irreverent; naughty but nice and a little bit dangerous. She wore ripped jeans and blazers by day, daring party dresses and vintage gowns by night.

She was Rihanna meets Penelope Cruz. Does that make her Jean Byrne, Kerry's most famous style icon and lover of all things Balmain? I think it might.

If the Balmain girl was a little inaccessible to both boys and girls, then she's about to become less so. I hear a less expensive diffusion line, called Pierre Balmain, is on the way to a store probably nowhere near most of us in September.

Nothing like a good recession to bring about some diffusion.

Which brings us nicely to the next question. What does diffusion even mean? I'll have to consult a fashion expert on that one. In a non-literal sense, I think it means more affordable high fashion. Yay for that.

More affordable is all relative, of course. More affordable when compared with the main line, where jeans, leather jackets and T-shirts can sell for upwards of €2,000.

The new prices range from €105 to €795 for T-shirts, jeans and jackets. With bargains like that, who needs to get ripped off, the cynics will say.

I'm not a cynic, however, so I'll look forward to seeing the collection and continue to appreciate the brilliance of Balmain's banality.

There are only a few of us left in the appreciation society. Two of us in fact. Both from north Kerry.

Who would have forecast that?

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