The sparkling story of Swarovski and Balmain can be traced back from the beginning of the fashion house founded by Pierre Balmain in 1945 to the revival of the atelier's savoir-faire in the first couture collection by the brand's current artistic director Olivier Rousteing in 2018.
Pierre Balmain’s dresses were always designed to spark dreams and delight the imagination. Such was the purpose of the ivory silk satin dress from the Spring 1954 collection commissioned by an aristocratic French family. With its sinuous curves, flattering décolleté, astonishing full skirt and dreamy embroidery, this extravagant gown not only shines with the creative inspiration of the designer but also the technical prowess of France’s ateliers and petites mains which can be witnessed on every inch of fabric. Swarovski’s hand-cut crystals were an important component of the dress’s complex creation, that involved hundreds of hours of work by dozens of hands under the direction of both Pierre Balmain and the legendary embroiderer François Lesage. During the twentieth century, Lesage was one of the famous maisons that worked with Swarovski’s crystals to bring an extra layer of opulence and brilliance to the world of Parisian haute couture, which included names such as Dior, Chanel and Balmain amongst others.
Pierre Balmain was never one to shy away from sparkling embellishments and embroideries to cast a magical aura on his beautiful ball gowns. Nor could he pretend to design for the average woman when only the very rich could afford such a highly decorated piece of clothing. Swarovski took part not only in making a handful of women feel special and unique, but also in exuding the passionate labour of the artisans from the golden age of haute couture.
When Olivier Rousteing took the reins of the company in 2009, he directed the house back to the finer aspects of French couture, while bringing a fresh take to the brand’s aesthetic. Almost nine years later, Rousteing debuted his first haute couture collection for Spring/Summer 2019 by reviving the couture atelier and craftsmanship so dear to Pierre Balmain and bridging the elegance of the past with today’s glamour. It’s no surprise then that the designer enlisted Swarovski to embellish his looks with over one million crystals and Swarovski Crystal Pearls for this first couture collection in 16 years. Mini dresses, trousers and tops in cream and pastel hues were sparkling with Swarovski stones while several key looks were fully crystalized.
“Couture remains as exclusive today as it has always been – a luxury well beyond the reach of most. [This] collection relies on more than one million Swarovski crystal pearls, stones and beads for the intricate embroideries and embellishments. By pushing myself, my team and our atelier to the very limit to create these aspirational designs, I know that Balmain will be able to learn from these techniques, lessons and innovations. That is the great strength and incredible heritage of couture and why so many of Paris great houses have traditionally relied on the rigors of couture to advance the designs of all collections.” – Olivier Rousteing
The designer has succeeded in making couture relevant again by diving into the house’s archives and highlighting the intricate details, impeccable tailoring and sculptural shapes with his own modern twist, while honouring the artisans that play a pivotal role in shaping the dream of couture. And Swarovski has been an instrumental support in bringing these aspirations to life with a touch of sparkle since the start of the brand.