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Want to buy Balmain? The house could be yours for €300m-€400m, according to the French paper Les Echos, which reports that the heirs of Alain Hivelin, the late chairman and majority owner of Balmain who died in 2014, have given a sale mandate to Bucéphale Finance. Relatives of the family, who hold the remaining 30 per cent stake in the company, would be expected to sell their shares in the event of a sale in which investors from France, Britain and Asia have reportedly expressed an interest.
The brand, which is said to have turned over €30m last year, is but a minnow in the corporate world of high fashion (consider that Victoria Beckham broke £60m in revenues last year), but if you measure your worth in Instagram followers (3.8m and counting), then this might just be the niche luxury brand for you. No word yet as to whether Olivier Rousteing comes with purchase. The incumbent designer and master craftsman of the Insta filter since 2011 has been instrumental in broadening the brand’s cultural reach.
Notwithstanding its phenomenally successful line with high-street retailer H&M last November, Balmain offers little in the way of accessible entry points for consumers, specialising instead in multi-thousand pound diamanté studded blazers, and the kind of show-stopping, sheer, “sexy” ensembles beloved of R&B stars on the red carpet. New investors will no doubt cash in on the brand’s huge commercial potential — fragrance, leather goods, shoes, macramé tights — or at least get a selfie with Kanye West. The artist sat front row to see the AW16 collection unveiled on a gold mirror checkerboard catwalk at Hôtel Potocki to a soundtrack provided by a live orchestra — and a very big harp.
The focus for AW16 was lingerie and corsetry, of course, with an emphasis on a new silhouette (sculpted minidresses with cutaway bosoms, long ruffled lines that travelled the body like a fancy valance sheet, wide gold metallic belts that encircled the waist) and palette (flesh, nude, cream, dove grey — and a flash of black velvet). Many of the dresses were embroidered in pearls (see Dries Van Noten for another example of that trend) and hung with tassels of the sort that adorn a vintage lampshade. Throw in the mock Tudor baby blue brocades, fluffy angoras, long stripy capes and laces and it all recalled a Saturday afternoon in the curtains, blinds and soft furnishings section at John Lewis.
Instead, Rousteing had been looking at Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell while shooting his autumn campaign and was inspired by their “poise, professionalism” and “amazing power” of their natural beauty. For a collection of women with nearly 150 years between them, at least his vision of sensuality has the same transgenerational aspiration as the British department store. Never knowingly undersold? That remains to be seen.