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05-04-2011
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Balmain, Christophe Decarnin parting ways
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PARIS — Balmain is ending its five-year collaboration with Christophe Decarnin, the designer who heated up the French brand to the boiling point, but was missing in action during Paris Fashion Week last month, WWD has learned.

Balmain is expected to announce its separation from Decarnin as early as today, and his successor shortly thereafter.

It is understood an internal candidate is the front-runner to take up the design helm at a house Decarnin made synonymous with audacious, ultrasexy — and ultraexpensive — fashions.

The painfully shy designer was absent from Balmain’s fall 2011 show, under doctor’s orders, after seeking treatment in Paris for depression. However, sources close to the designer say speculation about Decarnin’s mental health was overblown.

In fact, tensions between the designer and Balmain’s chairman and chief executive officer Alain Hivelin had reached a breaking point, with the two men said to have widely divergent views on the company’s strategy and future direction.

Still, there has been no interruption in creating collections for the fast-growing brand, prized for its strong-shouldered jackets, artfully destroyed T-shirts, embellished minidresses and skinny jeans.

In fact, the privately held firm has continued to expand, especially in Asia. In the last six months, Balmain has teamed with local partners to open boutiques in Shanghai, Beijing and Beirut, Lebanon, along with a third location in Seoul. New units in Hangzhou, China, and Hong Kong are on the agenda for this year, and a new distribution agreement with Bluebell Japan Ltd. should see a Tokyo store bow within the next year.

Founded in 1945, Pierre Balmain has seen its fair share of turbulence in the past decade as it shuttered its couture operations, emerged from a Chapter 11 debt-protection filing and weathered a revolving door of designers in the ready-to-wear department.

Oscar de la Renta wound up a 10-year stint as Balmain’s couturier in 2002, and the list of rtw designers included Gilles Dufour, Andrew Gn, Laurent Mercier and Christophe Lebourg.

Decarnin, who spent seven years as head designer of women’s rtw at Paco Rabanne, quietly joined Balmain in 2005, immediately steering the brand into hot-blooded fashion territory with thigh-skimming dresses, gauzy T-shirts and ornate embroideries, all at nosebleed prices that did not prevent sellouts and waiting lists at many stores, from Harvey Nichols in London to Kirna Zabête in New York.

In 2008, at the height of what some dubbed “Balmania,” Decarnin extended his domain into men’s wear, turning out ripped jeans and tough leather blousons.

In a rare interview last year as he unveiled Balmain’s revamped original flagship on the Rue François 1er here, Hivelin cited sales growth in excess of 50 percent in recent years, and a desire to keep a tight rein on distribution for the top line, which boasts T-shirts retailing for $1,600, jackets for $5,000 and runway dresses for upward of $60,000.

Nevertheless, Hivelin has quietly tested future avenues of growth for the brand, including a less expensive line dubbed Balmain Blue that is said to have irked Decarnin and was never brought to market.

As reported, sources said this week Ittierre SpA may have secured a license with Balmain, but the French firm and the Italian manufacturer have been mum on the subject. At present, Ittierre produces the C’N’C Costume National, Galliano, Ermanno Ermanno Scervino and Just Cavalli collections, and is said to be keen to expand its stable of international fashion labels.
wwd / april 6, 2011

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05-04-2011
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No way!
Although his collections were indeed repetitive, I always loved what he offered at Balmain. His rock 'n' roll aesthetic was what I just absolutely loved! Hope the internal candidate that takes the position sticks to what Decarnin offered.

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05-04-2011
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Woah, surprising! I always thought he would stay for longer, his collections were always so fun too see and seemed -at least to me- to do good on sales and editorial coverable.I'm really interested in who will succeed him as designer of the house (please no alexander wang or someone like him)

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06-04-2011
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I kind of am surprised, but at the same time I'm not.

Something in his collections seemed to lack as of recently, some sort of spark that was very rock n roll but glamorous, but recently Balmain has had a darker tint to it. I don't know if that can be a valid correlation but an artists lives can be reflected in their work.

Seeing how he turned the house and how huge the house is right now one would not assume the train would just stop right away (specially after we have all had our eyes on Galliano for some time), we saw a decent ride for both Christophe and Balmain.

I do hope his successor does keep that sexy, rock n roll vice, a bit trashy but glam vibe that even if we don't like, we still pay attention to it no matter what.

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06-04-2011
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i'm glad he's out. he did incite a massive trend in fashion (and he will always be remembered for it among other things) but it inevitably ate out any further direction for his succeeding collections, everything just became too one note afterwards, it was almost a bad joke. the house needs someone who can push things forward without having to repeat the same exact thing in essence. though i'm really curious to see whether their new (eventual) appointee will keep Decarnin's established style, or deviate from it. everything's very much ripe for development. i hope they keep Melanie Ward though, i liked the added refinement to the last collection.

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06-04-2011
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Decarnin's spring 2009 blazer is remarkable enough that no one gonna forget him, what a man could want more?

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06-04-2011
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i'm curious if the rumored in-house feplacement will keep the house on this successful course or lead it into uncharted territory.

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06-04-2011
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OMG this can't be true!!!! he's the one who's made Balmain back on mainstream once again. It'd be very sad to see him leave, I still wanting more to see him for this brand.

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06-04-2011
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Wow, this is news... I truly loved some of his clothes.

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06-04-2011
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that wasn't really THAT kind of unexpected... maybe he'll start his own line now? would it be as crazily priced as Balmain?

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06-04-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AgrenateD View Post
i'm glad he's out. he did incite a massive trend in fashion (and he will always be remembered for it among other things) but it inevitably ate out any further direction for his succeeding collections, everything just became too one note afterwards, it was almost a bad joke. the house needs someone who can push things forward without having to repeat the same exact thing in essence. though i'm really curious to see whether their new (eventual) appointee will keep Decarnin's established style, or deviate from it. everything's very much ripe for development. i hope they keep Melanie Ward though, i liked the added refinement to the last collection.
I think you said everything I wanted to say:p

But yes, while he did make it extremely popular I'm glad to see him gone since he didn't push the brand forward much.

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06-04-2011
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As if we need another departure

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06-04-2011
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06-04-2011
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Not shocked by this. But I'll probably miss him despite his collections being one noted and all. Whoever replaces him I hope will bring in a few more dresses regardless if they continue Decarnin's thing or deviate a bit from it.

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06-04-2011
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Woah, interesting, cant say i will be tearful over this, am more excited what might be the next chapter for Balmain. He clearly had a lot of fans, who bought, and bought, and bought! But i never liked much his vision, to tired of it by now, bring in the new fresh air, its time.

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