El maestro Cristobal Balenciaga

First there is the musicality of the name, Cristobal Balenciaga is a name which sings. I think the first time I read his name was on a flask of his famous perfume Le Dix. Then because I like fashion and designers I read more about him when I was a student or rather it's a friend who studied at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris who made me discover his work.

Cristobal Balenciaga, whom Christian Dior baptized notre maître à tous, (the master of all masters) was born in 1895 in a little fishermen village Getaria, in Spain on the Basque coast. His mother was a seamstress and undoubtedly the little boy developed his taste for fabrics and clothes from seeing his mother work. He started at the age of 12 as an apprentice for a tailor then was sent to Madrid to learn the trade. Interestingly, he started as a buyer. At that time, Gabrielle Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli and Madeleine Vionnet were his fashion icons. He bought their models which he would undo then reconstruct in order to understand the construction of a garment.

He opened his first shop in San Sebastian in 1919, quickly became successful and opened other shops in Madrid and Barcelona. Many of his clients were members of the Spanish royal family and aristocrats.
When the civil war divided Spain in 1936, Cristobal left for Paris where he created his own maison de couture, on 10 avenue George V in 1937.

His first collection was a total success : everybody raved about his perfect little black dresses and the name of Balenciaga quickly became a reference. They all wanted him: the Duchess of Windsor, Barbara Hutton, Pauline de Rothschild and Countess Mona Bismarck.

Throughout his career Balenciaga always strived to work on the construction and volume of the garment and considered his trade as a combination of several arts. He used to say a couturier must be an "architect for the plans, a sculptor for the shape, a painter for the colours, a musician for the harmony and a philosopher for measure".

When Christian Dior's New Look was all rage, Balenciaga responded with balloon volumes, voluminous coats and more fluid lines.
In the 50s, he created the sack-dress, the tunique-dress, the semi-fitted suit and the baby doll dress.
It is said that he imposed the marinière (sailor's shirt) but didn't Chanel feature the sailor's style in her former collections too ?

Unlike most couturiers, who only designed their models, Balenciaga designed, cut and assembled its own models. Hubert de Givenchy, one of his great admirers, said: "Balenciaga not only created a style but also a technique. He was the architect of haute couture".

The dress below is quite exemplary of Balenciaga's genius, the elegant balance between right lines and curves.

© Balenciaga Archives Paris - Kublin

Here is one of his famous suits with a slightly curved back

© L'Officiel 1955 - Pottier

An amazing semi flower dress

© L'Officiel 1951 - Pottier

One of his famous cape coats with a voluminous collar and which wraps like a cape

© Balenciaga Archives Paris - Kublin

In 1968, Paris is shaken by the spirit of the révolution culturelle. Six years before, Balenciaga presented for the first time very high boots in his collection which his models wore with mini skirts. Again he had shown his genius but the master was weary and didn't feel the spirit anymore. So he chose to leave and close his maison de couture in 1968. He retired to his beloved Spain where he died in 1972.

I wish I had the means to buy myself a pretty black vintage Balenciaga dress at Didier Ludot shop ! I'm not a 100% fashionista but I think it must be very moving to touch and own a garment created by such a rigorous and talented designer.

At least, I have these shoes.....
A few years ago, I had to go to Paris for my work and waited 4 hours at the Madrid airport. I was a bit nervous about the clothes I brought with me and decided I needed new shoes so I took the tube and dashed off to the nearest El Corte Inglès store. The minute I saw them, it was love at first sight and it's still is....Of course, they're not vintage but at least to me they capture a bit the spirit of the master !

last pic : Monchéri


Helena said…
I really admire people who have an interest, focus and determination to do whatever they can to work with what they love most.

Those shoes are G.O.R.G.E.O.U.S!!!
David Engel said…
As they say... "You Go Girl!" Very nice posting on the beautiful works of Balenciaga. He was quite the man.
The closest I got to him was dining in Jean Luc Figuera in Barcelona. Fantastic meal and restaurant in what had been a Balenciaga showroom. I hope it is still there.


Simonetta said…
Lala, que increible!primero yo miré las fotos de balenciaga y pensè: que lindos zapatos! que lindas medias! que linda foto! despues que ley todo,descubri que los zapatos y medias y piés son tuyos e la foto te ton cheri...
me encanta como escribis.
arrisquei te escrever em espanhol. deu certo?
gracias por tu comentário,
gracis por tu blog.
Dakota Bear said…
Love the shoes they are beautiful.
eda said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ah those dresses are total works of art. Such an interesting post.

I love your header photo.

Thank you so much for visiting and leaving such a lovely comment. Yes you must wear it one day, of course!
oiacaveman said…
You are right...his name does sing and his designs sang as well. Hope you're feeling better lovely ;-)
Mélanie said…
Elles sont ravissantes et très élégantes. j'ai certaines chaussures ou sacs de créateur que je garde et que j'adore regarder et mettre et remettre. j'ai l'impression qu c'est la marque des grands ils ne se démodent jamais
Christina said…
what a beautiful story... you are sweetly reminded, each time you wear them.
Ahhh - the gorgeous designs of Balenciaga. Love your shoes!
Some of the most beautiful shots I have ever seen of the his work. Thank you for sharing.
Anairam said…
His clothes are quite sculptural. I guess owning one of his dresses would be like having a work of art - I would display it in my house! PS The shoes are beautiful - especially teamed with those stockings - great look ...
Olivia said…
Love the shoes! Glad you're on your way! I had same surgery and problem. Feel great now! Wishing you the best, too! Look forward to reading your posts.
Linda Sue said…
I remember thinking "who could wear that?" back in the day...I see now that you could wear anything and do it justice- the shoes are dreamy!
Dreamgirl said…
Oh, I just LOVE those shoes! You lucky, lucky girl!

Thanks for sharing the history of Balenciaga... very interesting. He's designs were beautiful!

Have a fab Friday!
I'm SO envious that you are spending the weekend in Granada. I would love to be there right now...
Anonymous said…
Thank you for the lesson. It's really fascinating that he was so far ahead of the curve on the mini skirt / boots combo! Beautiful!
Kristin said…
Positively drooling over that striped number and the lovely stockings!

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