Cristóbal Balenciaga, admired by Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy or Coco Chanel, was one of the greatest couturiers of all times; in his words: “a couturier must be an architect for design, a sculptor for shape, a painter for colour, a musician for harmony and a philosopher for temperance”.
Was born in Getaria (Basque Country) and raised by his mother, Martina, because of the early death of his father, who was a fisherman. She introduced him in the couture world due to her job of seamstress for important families. When he was a teenager he met the Marchioness de Casa Torres and she became his patron and customer. He started his training period in San Sebastian in well-known establishments like Casa Gómez or New England and then in Au Louvre department store in San Sebastian, which have him the opportunity to know Paris and the most famous Maisons.
In 1917 he opened his first boutique named C.Balenciaga in San Sebastian and in a very short period of time he gained a lot of prestige among Spanish and European royalty and upper classes. In 1927 set up a new company focused on the traditional high couture called Eisa Couture.
Because of the Civil War he was forced to move to Paris and his activity decreased, but on July 1937 he formed BALENCIAGA Company and on August he presented his first high couture collection, which had a lot of success. Two years later, was released a collection based on the XVII century fashion and on the Second French Empire. Moreover, one of the dresses that had a major favourable outcome was “Infanta” dress. It has to be said that he reinterpreted characteristic details typical of traditional Spanish fashion, such as gowns made with rich embroideries and braids, made references to the pictorial world.
1947 was the release date of the brand first perfume, Le Dix. As fashion is concerned, during the late forties and the early fifties he opted for volume and fluid lines instead of corsets. He presented the tonneau (barrel) line, which introduced a half-fitted suit with volume on the back and fitted on the front. In the mid-fifties launched the tunic, a two-piece dress of straight lines and in 1957 the sack dress. A year later, in 1958, he presented the baby doll dress and the peacock tail dresses. His creations were a revolution on the fashion industry of the moment and he was soon recognized the “king of the high couture”.
Balenciaga changed the lines of the suits and established short jackets and high waist pieces. Even his sport style was marked by elegance. His sure bets were low heel, skirts below the knees or quarter length sleeves.
In 1968 he retired after presenting his last collection and announced the closure of the Paris, Madrid, Barcelona and San Sebastian boutiques. Cristóbal Balenciaga died soon after, in 1972, and the brand remained on the obscurity.
Michel Goma tried to recover the brand in 1987 launching a prêt-à-porter line, but it doesn’t achieve the successful he expected. Five years later, Josephus Melchior Thimister presented another prêt-à-porter line based exclusively on black and ink blue, but again, it doesn’t receive excellent reviews from the fashion industry. Since the retirement and death of Balenciaga, the fashion brand lived thanks to its past glory and the perfumes.
1997 was the year that Nicolás Ghesquière arrived to the maison, and his first collections were characterized by black and the volume, following the origins of the brand. But the maximum success of the designer arrived in 2008 with his little dress and the two-pieces with floral print and puffy sleeves. Ghesquière wanted to transmit a new avant-garde image, renewing the spirit of the maison. He left the brand in 2012 and Alexander Wang took the design leadership and he received good reviews, but after the spring-summer 2016 collection the American designer announced his departure. Demna Gvasalia, from Vêtements, is the new creative director of Balenciaga.