Sleeveless dress with silk bows (detail), 1962 , Cristóbal Balenciaga, Les Arts Décoratifs, In Copyright

Cristóbal Balenciaga was a Spanish couturier, who merged the atmospheres of his homeland with the precepts of French Couture. Son of a seamstress, at the age of twelve he began working as an apprentice in a tailor shop in Getaria, his hometown in the north of Spain.

 

(left) Red and black embroidered dress and bolero (front), 1947, Cristóbal Balenciaga, MUDE Museo do Design e da Moda, In Copyright | (right) Red and black embroidered dress and bolero (back), 1947, Cristóbal Balenciaga, MUDE Museo do Design e da Moda, In Copyright

When Balenciaga was just a teenager, a noblewoman in his town became his customer and patron, sending him to Madrid to train as a tailor in one of the best schools of the capital. He opened a boutique in San Sebastián, in the north of Spain, in 1919, and the other two branches in Madrid and Barcelona. Amongst his clients, were the Spanish royal family and the aristocracy. However, at the end of the 1930s, the Spanish Civil War forced him to close his business and immigrate to Paris. He opened his first atelier on George V Avenue in 1937. 

‘La Perse’ evening dress, 1946, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, In Copyright
‘La Perse’ evening dress, 1946, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, In Copyright

Working in Paris, he established his fame as ‘The King of Fashion’ for the groundbreaking designs he presented, and especially for the iconic silhouettes, he developed during the 1950s and 1960s. An acute observer of the social scenario in front of him, considering the revolution that happened in France in front of his eyes, in 1968 he decided to close his maison, declaring that that moment was the end of what he considered fashion.

Sleeveless dress with silk bows (detail), 1962 , Cristóbal Balenciaga, Les Arts Décoratifs, In Copyright
Sleeveless dress with silk bows (detail), 1962 , Cristóbal Balenciaga, Les Arts Décoratifs, In Copyright