Over the last several years, the balloon has become somewhat of a fixture in fashion editorials and advertisements. British photographer Tim Walker, a former assistant to Richard Avedon, is perhaps most responsible for the recent popularization of these gravity-defying baubles. In addition to numerous other projects, you've likely seen Walker's spring 2009 campaign for Miss Dior Chérie in which model Maryna Linchuk is lifted high above Paris via a bouquet of candy-colored balloons. Her free arm cradles a larger-than-life-sized bottle of the perfume while she stares dreamily into the distance, perhaps contemplating the powers of the high-end elixir.
Just one year later, Tatler UK published an editorial not unlike the Dior ad. Though the models aren't featured casually defying death (they're either planted on terra firma or, at most, snapped midair in one of those jaunty model jumps -- you know the one), the photos' general aesthetic is curiously similar to Walker's work. But even if the Tatler team did raid Dior's prop closet, Walker certainly didn't invent the "woman-with-balloons" motif, of which plenty of earlier iterations exist. Just take Audrey Hepburn's iconic stills from Funny Face or Richard Avedon's 1957 photos of Marilyn Monroe channeling Clara Bow under a canopy of pink and red latex.
Not only is balloon mania not slowing down, but the balloon family is also expanding. By the fall of last year, the hot-air balloon had entered fashion's visual lexicon as the newest hot-ticket item. In an industry that aspires to outdo itself, this evolution from the everyday balloon to its souped-up, arguably more sophisticated older sister is not surprising.
Louis Vuitton led the charge in November 2012 when it graduated from helium-filled, monogrammed spheres to a gorgeous antique hot-air balloon in its first ever commercial. After fetching a mysterious document from an LV trunk deep in the heart of the Louvre, Arizona Muse escapes a handsome pursuer by dashing to a hot-air balloon awaiting her in the museum's courtyard.
CH by Carolina Herrera must have wondered what the hell was wrong with Ms. Muse, because the brand chose to instead unite two lovebirds in the basket of a balloon cleverly strung with colorful purses instead of sandbags. Others to use the granddaddy of the balloon family include companies as diverse as J. Crew and lingerie retailer Gossard (who, to be fair, printed an ad on the face of a hot-air balloon rather than the other way around).
It's easy to see why balloons -- large and small, aircraft and not -- are so popular in the fashion world. They're fun, flirty and can be easily color-coordinated to complement an outfit or a set. As symbols of escapism, adventure and fantasy, they're also powerful when it comes to inspiring a certain experience or set of feelings in the viewer. Given the balloon's long history in the world of fashion, it seems this is one trend destined never to deflate.
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