Balenciaga is certainly one of the great names in the field of fashion. This house owes its fame to two men: first, to the founder, Cristobal Balenciaga and second, to Nicolas Ghesquière who has given it a second life.
Born in Spain in 1895, Cristobal Balenciaga was fascinated during his youth by the most popular fashion designers of that time – Coco Chanel, Madeleine Vionnet and Elsa Schiaparelli. He was so passionate about the architectural fashion pieces that he used to dissect and reassemble them, seeking to discover their structure and all the secrets they held. In 1918 he founded his fashion house in San Sebastian. Cristobal Balenciaga wanted to control everything in his creations. Coco Chanel said that he was the only one who can draw, cut, sew and assemble a model by himself.
His style goes for simple shapes, combined with rich fabrics. Some items used so expensive raw materials that the company soon faced bankruptcy. After opening two shops in Spain (Madrid and Barcelona), he took refuge in London for one year and then forever established in Paris where he became famous. He is one of the few fashion designers not to close his house during the Second World War. Moreover, the scarcity of tissue was a source of inspiration for him and led him to develop cutting techniques that allowed it to obtain volume without accumulating layers of material.
His Spanish roots can be seen in the well known Infanta gown he designed in 1939. This pink satin dress was adorned with black velvet around the hips and the luxurious neckline. Spanish influence and consequence of tough economic conditions, the Matador boleros emerged in 1946. Among the typical lines of the Balenciaga style, one of the most remarkable is that so-called peacock’s tail, leaving the knee exposed and going down on the back.
But they also count on accessories, some of which become a cult like the Lariat bag. Perfumes are also a major windfall as they allow the house to survive during difficult periods. The most famous fragrance bottle is Le Dix, named after the Parisian address of the house.
To his loyal customers’ disappointment, Cristobal Balenciaga decided to close his fashion house in 1968, after fifty years of career and success, right after having designed the Air France stewardesses’ uniform.