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I Am Black Velvet: Erik Mortensen – Haute Couture

Start Date 16 June 2017
End Date 18 March 2018
Venue Design Museum
Location Copenhagen, Denmark

Erik Mortensen is the closest Denmark comes to the world of fashion in Paris. At age 16, he moved from a small town in the countryside to Copenhagen to become an apprentice with Holger Blom, the best-known Danish fashion designer of the 1930s and 1940s. By the time he was 22, he was on his way to Paris, where he ambitiously went after a position at the atelier of Pierre Balmain.

His dream came true, and his haute couture fairytale began in 1947, when the young Erik Mortensen became a student at Balmain. In 1951 he became Balmain’s first assistant, and in 1982 he took over the role of head designer after Balmain’s death.


Erik Mortensen’s sophisticated and passionate approach to design is evident in his many collections. During his time as head designer at Pierre Balmain, Erik Mortensen was not only popular with his customers, but recognized by his colleagues in the industry. He won the prestigious Le Dé d’Or, often called the fashion industry’s Oscar, three times.


The exhibition is built up around several themes that offer insight into Erik Mortensen’s unique design talent, the legacy of Balmain, his design process, his joy in materials and his sublime craftsmanship, his fascination with the colour black and the play of transparent textiles against bare skin.

There are also areas in the exhibit devoted to Mortensen’s fashion shows and the stories of his private customers, among them celebrities and royal families.