Seated in the front row of the first Balmain show, alongside his friends Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, was the fascinating English Renaissance man, Cecil Beaton. The author and film director Lisa Immordino-Vreeland joins this episode of l’Atelier Balmain to discuss the fascinating life and work of Beaton. Immordino Vreeland, known for her prizewinning documentaries about some of the 20th-Century’s most talented forces in art, creation and fashion, recently focused on Beaton for her third film and second book—both titled Love Cecil—and she shares insights on his life, philosophy and creations with the podcast.
From the moment he saw his first Balmain designs, Cecil Beaton began forming an important connection to the house—in fact, almost immediately after that premiere show, Beaton began to promote the young Pierre Balmain to key members of London and Paris society. Lynn Yaeger returns to the podcast to discuss some of the English, French and American aristocratic and upper-class personalities who were quick to adopt Balmain’s fresh, feminine silhouette—and, just as one might expect, Yaeger is also happy to share the scandals and background stories connected to each of those colorful personalities.
While we explore how post-war society was quick to embrace Balmain, we also highlight how Olivier Rousteing cleverly appropriates society’s codes and signatures for today’s modern vision of luxury and class that speaks to our age — and the young, diverse and inclusive Balmain Army that Olivier Rousteing designs for today.
This is the third of four l’Atelier Balmain episodes exploring the house’s first collection. Underlining how that first Balmain show introduced what Alice B Toklas defined as a “New French Style,” the four podcasts focus on Pierre Balmain's astounding success in overcoming the extremely difficult conditions, while also placing the spotlight on some of the many fashion and cultural icons who were part of the house’s earliest days and helped guarantee the success of the Paris fashion world’s first post-war star, Pierre Balmain.
CREDITS L’ATELIER BALMAIN EPISODE FIVE
A NEW FRENCH STYLE, PART 3: BEATON, SOCIETY AND BALMAIN
Balmain Creative Director: Olivier Rousteing
Special Podcast Guest: Lisa Immordino Vreeland
Special Podcast Guest: Lynn Yaeger
Music: Echoes of France (La Marseillaise) by Django Reinhardt
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 Macé
Episode researched, written and presented by John Gilligan
To explore further:
Love, Cecil—the documentary film and book by Lisa Immordino Vreeland (Film: Zeitgeist Films, 2017; Book: Abrams, 2017)
Pierre Balmain’s Autobiography: My Years and Seasons, Doubleday, 1965
This Episode’s Music:
Balmain’s Creative Director, Olivier Rousteing, makes very 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.
For this podcast, we turn to the beautiful jazz of Django Reinhardt, playing one of his most moving creations throughout the episode. Jean Reinhardt—known to all by his Romani nickname Django—was France’s first major jazz artist—and, for many critics, he is simply Europe’s greatest jazz talent, ever. Two of his hits bookend the dark years of France’s occupation. The first, “Nuages” (Clouds), is one of his most famous compositions. Written after France’s defeat in 1940, it became for many a sort of unofficial Parisian anthem, signifying hopes for eventual freedom and liberation. Reinhardt, unlike many Romani, somehow managed to avoid the camps and horrors of that time—even after his plans to escape to Switzerland were thwarted by the Nazis, he was still able to return to Paris and continue playing. Most Romani, of course, were not so connected, talented and lucky. It’s estimated that over 600,000 Romani people were interned and killed during the Porajmos (the Nazi genocide of Romani people). So, we can easily understand why Reinhardt decided to mark the Liberation with this now iconic, celebratory and joyful jazz version of “La Marseillaise,” France’s national anthem. At that same time, remembering the great and tragic losses, he composed a moving requiem mass for the victims of the Romani genocide, entitled “Requiem à mes frères tsiganes.”