Christophe Decarnin leaves Balmain
Balmain is parting ways with Christophe Decarnin, the designer who transformed the dusty old fashion house into a red hot label, coveted by jet-set party girls worldwide. The Paris-based house made the announcement Wednesday, but did not give any details about the reasons behind the decision.
Rumors about Decarnin’s health have swirled since the shy designer failed to appear for a bow after his fall-winter 2011-12 ready-to-wear show last month. At the time, a spokesman for the house dismissed rumors that he was in a mental hospital, saying that he was resting on doctor’s orders.
Decarnin, the mastermind behind Balmain’s now-hallmark peaked-shouldered jackets and ultra-minidresses, joined Balmain in 2005. He came out of nowhere to head the house and with every collection he did for Balmain, sales doubled. So who and what did Decarnin have to thank for all the success?
- The supercool girls. Balmain has become the label of the supercool girls. The girls in London and Paris who work as assistants at fashion magazines, design studios and P.R. firms, or who have some terrific family-tree connections they swing from. They’re 21 or 22 years old. Julia Restoin Roitfeld wears Balmain. So does Charlotte Casiraghi, a daughter of Princess Caroline.
- French Vogue. French Vogue has had a lot to do with Decarnin’s success. He said himself in an interview with NY Times. Roitfeld and her daughter wore Balmain to the Cannes Film Festival. And Roitfeld and her lieutenants Emmanuelle Alt and Marie-Amélie Sauvé — have taken this relatively isolated man and molded him in the image of French Vogue.
- France. The clothes are unmistakenly French. Or like Cathy Horyn of the NY Times put it: “If I see young Bardots and Birkins bobbing around St.-Tropez half naked, I’ve seen precisely what he wants me to see. In their cut and fit, in their energy and implacably dirty sex appeal, these clothes could not have come from anywhere else but France — and not even France but Paris.”
- The sky-high prices. A pair of jeans or a cotton T-shirt cost about a 1000 euro, while a beaded jacket can cost more than 10.000 euro. It’s almost offensive. Decarnin said the prices reflect the quality of workmanship and fabrics, as well as the company’s limited structure. But those high prices might also be part of the message: my stuff costs a lot.
But why did it took so long to become successful? According to Emanuelle Alt – a long time fan and stylist of his shows – Decarnin has the talent, but is too shy. “If you always stay in the shadows and don’t have the connections, it’s more difficult. Some people have a lot less talent, but they push themselves and go out and meet people.’’ Decarnin said he never goes to clubs.
Well, fashion in the street owns a lot to his trashy collections. Looking back, you see the streetwise girls took his punky, rock chick-style, with skinny jeans, T-shirts en fringed boots. Also: the revival of the strong shoulder and the fitted jacket. Even the long, bohemian flowerdresses he did in one of his early collections dominate the coming summer-fashion – although we have to thank Dolce & Gabbana for that too.
Watch a video about the last collection of Christophe Decarnin for Balmain: