Paris Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2016 went abuzz when supermodel besties Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid performed a hair switch to walk the Balmain runway. Normally sporting beautiful brown tresses, Kendall became blonde while Gigi dabbles as a gorgeous brunette. While social media exploded about the great switch-a-roo, little was mentioned about the actual origin of these wigs: Balmain Hair, which has expansion plans on the horizons.
This isn’t the first time creative director, Olivier Rousteing has tapped Balmain Hair Couture pieces for his runway. Working closely with Nabil Harlow, Balmain Hair Couture’s lead designer (who handmade the pieces for the Kendall-Gigi Hair-scapade) they produced the 23 inch locs for female models walking in the Autumn/Winter 2016 men’s show as well as the ponytails for the Spring/Summer 2016 women’s show.
Wigs are not revolutionary for the French. Many French fashion houses in the 1960’s and 1970’s had their own wig lines including Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior and Pierre Cardin. Pierre Balmain, the French designer who founded the house of Balmain, saw the opportunity in hair and sought out Dutch wigmaker, Dick Guliker, to create various hairpieces that complimented his clothing aesthetics. In 1974, Guliker founded Euro Hair, licensing the Balmain name. During the 1980s and 1990s, the popularity of wigs amongst the French declined and the company focused on extensions and wefts distributed via a network of professional salons.
In 2000, Alain Hivelin, the former chairman and majority owner who passed away in 2014 decided to enter into a direct partnership with the company and Euro Hair evolved into Balmain Hair. Although they are technically separate entities, the two companies, according to Steward Guliker, current Balmain CEO, states, they are “more or less married.” Balmain carries hair products, from moisturizing shampoos starting at $16 to ceramic hair brushes that are $48. The overall premium haircare market is estimated to be $8.5 billion and they are coming for that pie. Today, Balmai
Today, Balmain Hair is sold globally in 5,000 hair salons and even online at Net-a-Porter, where the retailer admits it’s a top seller in its category. Balmain is all about product innovation and visual branding: not only do they tap into Black celebrities like Naomi Campbell and Beyonce, but also recognizing, like Black people always have…hair is everything.