In the world of fashion, Balenciaga is known as a luxury brand that introduced fashion to the industry. Although the history behind the brand is as simple as it could get but it managed to set huge trends worldwide. Even Christian Dior once stated that Balenciaga was “the master of us all”. Such was the perfection and craftsmanship of the couture that the world stood silent when Balenciaga was showcasing its finest pieces to the world. Today, it is owned by Kering, which is a French international group. For years, Balenciaga’s bubble skirts and odd but modernistic silhouettes have made the world chase its trademarks.
Let us explore what made Balenciaga great and how it remains relevant today.
Cristobal Balenciaga was born in a small village situated in Getaria in 1895. His father was a fisherman by profession and his mother a seamstress. At a very young age, Balenciaga used to closely watch and observe his mother put together very fine clothing items. This was Balenciaga’s primary inspiration as well. He would credit his mother in the future for motivating and inspiring him to pursue a career in the fashion industry. At the same time, when Balenciaga was 11 years old, he was working with a tailor who further cultivated the dream of becoming a couturier. With the passing of each year, Balenciaga became better, gathering more skills and sharpening them as well. At the age of 12, Balenciaga managed to open his very first shop. Then, he had to move to Madrid and Barcelona until he landed in Paris due to the Civil war. Hence, Paris was the city that witnessed the official birth of Balenciaga’s creativity and innovation.
Unlike other prominent luxury brands, Balenciaga was not known by its history, rather by the founder’s obsession. Balenciaga was so obsessed with perfection and detail that it is said that he would sneak into his study to work on the next project while his collections were being presented. He was such a perfectionist that his both hands were equally skilled and nothing less than a miracle. His obsession and perfection soon made him the master of women’s fashion.
He invented, designed, crafted, and perfected each and every line of fabric, he used in his projects. Fashion designers recall his work as being equal to sculpture and architecture. Although success was destined, the maven decided to close his Paris shop in 1968. Balenciaga passed away four years later, while the band went into hiding for around 2 years until it was rescued by new designers to help it see the light of the day.
As Balenciaga moved to Paris, he made this place his home ground for innovation and creativity. This is basically where Balenciaga took off. For Balenciaga, Paris was a “Theater” that allowed him to mesmerize the audience with his timeless pieces. Perhaps the biggest characteristic of Balenciaga was that he never forgot his origin. He remained stuck to his roots and always included combinations of lace with red and black color. At the time, the best lace could only be found in Paris.
Furthermore, Balenciaga’s first collection was inspired by the Spanish Renaissance, whereas the next one would acquire inspiration from clothes of Spain’s Princess and boleros worn by bullfighters of Spain. Balenciaga never had to struggle to extend his brand’s reach. His refined taste and attention to detail were more than enough to turn European attention towards it. While the master was at it, some of the most powerful women at the time wanted a piece of Balenciaga as well so they came as close as they could to experience the brand.
Balenciaga’s Golden Age and Clash
Balenciaga’s golden age prevailed for nearly two decades. During this time, Balenciaga touched the peak of his career and became the master of Art Costume. This was a time when corseted clothes and “wheeled” skirts of Christian Dior defined femininity. However, Balenciaga took the other route and unleashed his genius once again. His idea was that the body is made free of symmetries, volumes, and chromatic contrasts.
The quest of making the body free led Balenciaga towards the invention of two fabrics. The Cracknyl and Gazar. Balenciaga was way ahead of his time. It meant that the conventional women fashion would change and put Balenciaga directly in a clash with Christian Dior. The difference was that while Christian Dior chose to carry the conventional fashion sense, Balenciaga completely replaced it.
The 60s was a revolutionary period. It brought significant changes to the political, social, and cultural fields. This was a time when pop and rock ‘n’ roll music was making its way into the ears of the audience. Furthermore, the demands and needs of working women were increasing and changing as well. One way or the other, all of these things combined were influencing society’s customs.
As a result, a new fashion sense walked into the spotlight termed as ‘Pret-a-Porter’. Opposed to the haute couture trend, this fashion line was supposed to meet the needs of the new world. Tailored ready to wear clothes especially for working women were displayed at stores. At the same time, it also gave birth to the use of miniskirts and dresses. However, Balenciaga was not at all impressed with the concept. He was once recorded to have said “I will never prostitute my talent”. Therefore, observing that the taste was shifting, he retired in 1968 at the peak of his career.
Cristobal Balenciaga and DemnaGvasalia
After decades, a fashion designer by the name of DemnaGvasalia was born whose work would be compared with Cristobal Balenciaga and for the right reasons. While Balenciaga was a pioneer of haute couture, Demna was a lover of street-style wear. However, there was one thing similar between the two. Both were not afraid of the rules and challenges posed by the prevailing times and fashion industry. Moreover, both had the same idea and concept of the body. Demna brings the same level of creativity and craftsmanship in contemporary street-style wear that Balenciaga practiced in his haute couture. Considering that the trends were completely different, the cutting and creating expertise shared by the two were the same.
Balenciaga is remembered as a ‘sculptor’ and ‘Picasso of Fashion’. After 46 years, the Victoria and Albert Museum held an exhibition to honor the legendary fashion designer. Balenciaga was credited for introducing the world to a completely different fashion sense as compared to his contemporaries. Not everyone takes the dreadful decision of retiring particularly while being at the peak. However, Balenciaga did and managed to preserve his talent before it got lost in the upcoming waves of fashion trends.
As the article reaches its conclusion, it should be remembered that unlike his competitors, Balenciaga was self-taught. His skills came from practical experience and that is what made him a master. In all the years Balenciaga showcased his skills, there was no one that could match his talent. He chose to end his career, realizing that the changing times would value ready to wear items more and handcrafted items less. Therefore, Balenciaga retired, making his way into the history books as one of the most iconic designers of all time.