So far all my inductees to the Fashion Hall of Obscurity have been fashion designers – this will be the first shoemaker to receive the ‘obscurier couturier’ award!
Born in Silicia, Armenia, Der Balian was orphaned when we was seven and raised by a shoemaker who apprenticed him in the trade. Der Balian arrived in Paris in 1929 and found work as a freelance shoemaker designing models for different companies. Sarkis started working for Enzel, a famous shoemaker in Paris, in 1934 but when Enzel closed in 1936 Der Balian went to work for the shoemaking firm Cecile as technical manager. Der Balian turned down an invitation to work for Delman in the U.S. in 1939, and instead ended up opening his own workshop in Paris in 1943. In 1947 he reopened on Rue Saint-Honore. Over the years he received numerous awards and accolades for his work and made shoes for famous clients including Marie Curie, Greta Garbo, Salvador Dali, Lily Pons, and Yehudi Menuhin. He continued to make shoes until 1995, the year before his death.