1.4: A New French Style, Part 2: Gertrude, Alice and Pierre

1.4: A New French Style, Part 2: Gertrude, Alice and Pierre

Maira Kalman, the celebrated author, illustrator and designer joins the l’Atelier Balmain podcast for episode four. Kalman who oversaw 2020’s critically praised and colorful re-edition of Gertrude Stein’s best-selling “Autobiography of Alice B Toklas,” discusses the incredible literary and artistic legacy of Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas. Pierre Balmain shared a deep friendship with the couple, and he was very devoted to his pair of “American Mothers”—which is why Gertrude Stein, Alice B Toklas, along with their famous white poodle, Basket, were seated front and center at Pierre Balmain’s first show.


This is the second of four episodes concentrating on the fascinating moments and personalities that played a part in the incredible story of the 1945 birth of the house of Balmain. The group of four episodes, taking its name from Alice B Toklas’ famous summation of Pierre Balmain’s first collection—A New French Style—turns to some of today’s leading writers, documentary film makers, museum curators and fashion writers for unique insights on Paris post-war style and challenges, Pierre Balmain’s fresh new style, iconic images of Balmain designs and some of the legendary personalities seated in the front row of that first house presentation.


At each step, we’ll also make clear how Olivier Rousteing continues to build upon the firm foundations that Pierre Balmain established, 75 years ago.




Balmain Creative Director: Olivier Rousteing

Special Podcast Guest: Maira Kalman

Music:  J’ai Deux Amours — Josephine Baker

Additional Music: Jean-Michel Derain

Episode Direction and Production: Seb Lascoux

Balmain Historian: Julia Guillon

Episode Coordination: Alya Nazaraly

Research Assistance: Fatoumata Conte and Pénélope André

Digital Coordination/Graphic Identity: Jeremy Mace

Episode researched, written and presented by John Gilligan


To explore further:

The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas; By Gertrude Stein, Illustrated by Maira Kalman (Penguin 2020)

Pierre Balmain’s Autobiography: My Years and Seasons (Doubleday, 1965)


This Episode’s Music:

Balmain’s Creative Director, Olivier Rousteing, makes clear—collection after collection—that he believes that fashion can never be separated from music. Inspired by Rousteing, each l’Atelier Balmain podcast carefully selects artists and music that reflect and strengthen the story being told.


And, for an episode concentrating on some of the many amazing expatriates who transformed both the life of Paris and the history of art—what could be a more perfect song that the classic 'J'ai Deux Amours' from Josephine Baker?


Josephine Baker, immortalized by Picasso and described by Ernest Hemingway as "the most sensational woman anyone ever saw,” led an amazing life of art, resistance and engagement—and the house of Balmain is incredibly proud of its long association with the French legend.


Baker—born Freda Josephine McDonald in East Saint Louis—first sang this love song to her adopted home of Paris in the ‘30s, and she sang many versions of it over the many following decades.

Most versions being with the lines: “On dit qu'au-delà des mers. Là-bas sous le ciel clair. Il existe une cité. Au séjour enchanté. Et sous les grands arbres noirs. Chaque soir. Vers elle s'en va tout mon espoir. " ("They say that beyond the seas. Over there under the clear sky. There is a city. In the enchanted land. And under the great black trees. Every evening. All my hope goes towards her.") This city, beyond the seas, is the city of light that welcomed and embraced Josephine Baker—as well as so many other refuges, artists and intellectuals—drawn to creativity and freedom that helped set Paris apart during the era of Josephine, Alice, Gertrude and all those amazing talents who visited that famous salon on rue de Fleurus.


J'ai deux amours. Mon pays et Paris. Par eux toujours. Mon cœur est ravi.

I have two loves. My country and Paris. For them always. My heart is filled with delight.

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