For Joseph Dirand, fashion’s premier architect, it began with Balmain. “It was my first big project,” he recalls over the phone from his Paris office. In 2009, he conceived a scenography based on the venerated fashion house’s French heritage. He evoked the splendor and history of an 18th century hotel with traditional parquet floors, ornate molding and stone tiles sourced from French châteaus, while spiking the design with ultra-modern flourishes: the contrasting reflective sheen of monolithic silver sculptures intermingled with French furniture from the mid-century and the Golden Age of Pierre Balmain.
“It was like creating a movie about the brand, not only what it is today, but what it was before,” says Dirand. This radical approach that immersed clients in both the past and present ignited the interest of the fashion world. More high-profile commissions soon followed: flagship boutiques for Chloé, Rick Owens, Emilio Pucci, Balenciaga and more.
This year, Dirand’s career seems to have come full circle with the opening of the Balmain flagship in London, where he traded a few of the brand’s French charms in favor of Queen Anne Revival—ivory and stone—effectively translating them to more site-specific English sensibilities.