Perfectionist, extraordinarily technical, creative, innovative....These and other adjectives may undoubtedly be used to describe one of the best and most influential 20th century couturiers. Cristobal Balenciaga Eizaguirre (born in the city of Getaria, Gipuzkoa, Spain on January 21, 1895 - died in Jávea, Alicante, Spain on March 23, 1972) was well ahead of his times. He was a genius that revolutionized the concept of dressing and the female silhouette. For him, perfection was an obligation and his extraordinary technical skill facilitated the task. As a result of his innovative personality, he sought greater simplicity and purity of forms.
Wherever he went, Cristobal Balenciaga sparked passions. Perhaps, the words of colleagues and models best reflect the essence of the designer from Guipuzko. Christian Dior, another “great master” stated that “he was a master for all of us.” Hubert de Givenchy said; “He is the architect of haut couture.” Another catwalk reference was Coco Channel, who defined him as the “only authentic couturier,” as, contrary to his peers, “he was able to design, cut, set and sew a dress from beginning to end.”
Throughout his life, his precursor spirit was well established. Thus, in 1917, when he was only 22 years old, he opened his first house in Donostia-San Sebastian, followed by houses in Madrid and Barcelona.
It wasn't long before Spanish royalty and aristocrats heard about his talent and sought out his designs.
The Spanish Civil War forced him to close his business and immigrate to Paris, the fashion Mecca. In the French capital, specifically on George V Avenue, he inaugurated his first workshop, which was the springboard to the gates of Europe....that was in 1937.
From that point onward, his talent spread throughout Europe where it was more than obvious as of 1945. His innovative style gained momentum during those convulsive years. It was his brand. He began receiving calls and visits from some of the greatest figures of the continental scene, including Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo. Likewise, his designs were sought for the bridal gown of Queen Fabiola of Belgium, among other illustrious nobles, as well as creations for high-society Americans.
Undoubtedly, he made the one most important contribution to the history of fashion: the introduction of a new silhouette for women. He broke away from the established forms to create fluid lines and surprising volumes. Certainly, they were lines, models and designs that defined an era, such as the barrel line (1947), the semi-fitted look of 1951, the balloon skirts of 1953, the 1955 tunic dress, the sack dress of 1957 and his 1958 baby-doll dress. This was the final touch; his ascension to the highest of haut couture was granted to an iconoclast who was well ahead of his times. His colleagues, the fashion industry and the general public were living proof through their praise.
Even today, half a century later, after that rupture with the past, the catwalks continue to show his proposals.