Cristobal Balenciaga

Cristobal Balanciaga - copyright Lipnitzki/Roger-Viollet/The Image Works

Cristobal Balanciaga’s Paris Portrait – 1927 – copyright Lipnitzki/Roger-Viollet/The Image Works

Isn’t that a beautiful name? Doesn’t it just ooze glamour and roll off your tongue? I never knew much about him except that there was a beautiful handbag designed by Balenciaga introduced a few years ago. Mary Blume (a native New Yorker who lives in Paris) has written a book that brings his story to life: The Master of us All, Balenciaga: His Workrooms, His World. After reading the book I am touched to see how someone so intensely private could become so successful and revered; it reminds me of the power of genius. Allow me to share with you some facts about Cristobal Balenciaga:

– he was very private and he avoided photos of himself, he never gave an interview in his years as a designer, he never took a bow at the end of a collection, and he remained a mystery throughout this life

– he was a master of construction and technique and was considered the greatest couturier of his time. Christian Dior called Balenciaga “the conductor” and other designers were simply members of the orchestra. He had an obsession with sleeves

– he was Spanish, born of humble beginnings in a fishing village in 1895 – the youngest of five children. His Spanish (Basque) nature never left him

– although he stayed close to his Spanish roots he moved to Paris and set up the House of Balenciaga in 1936; it survived the Nazi invasion of Paris during World War II and continued to thrive through liberation, the 50s and most of the 60s. He dressed some of the most influential women of the world

– he and Coco Chanel both came from poor backgrounds and designed with a fearlessness that propelled them to the heights of fashion. Although they had different temperaments, they were friends until she betrayed that friendship. Even so, he graciously attended her funeral when she passed away in 1971

– after more than 30 years, on April 26, 1968 The London Daily Express announced that Balenciaga had abruptly closed shop

– Cristobal Balenciaga died on March 23, 1972

– Today, the Balenciaga brand is making a name for itself, thanks in great part to designer and creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere. Although he left Balenciaga in 2012, his marketing strategy of making a Balenciaga handbag a significant fashion accessory was a key reason for the company’s resurgence

I have a hard time imagining Cristobal Balenciaga living in this public world of today. Even when he was alive, very few knew him or his story but the legend of Balenciaga lives on

What do you think?


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