It's time for a little fashion-history lesson! For our first class, we will meet the man that (according to many) invented haute couture. Here he is, the King of Parisian couture, Cristobal Balenciaga:
Born in 1895 in Guetaria in the Spanish Basque Country, Cristobal Balenciaga devoted his entire life exploring the techniques of haute couture, which he elevated to perfection by a relentless simplification of cut that becomes legendary. At the age of 23, he opened his first couture house at San Sebastian (Spain), then two others in Madrid and Barcelona. He came regularly to Paris, where he bought creations from couturiers such as Elsa Schiaparelli and Madeleine Vionnet, whose construction techniques and secrets he studied in detail. Self-taught, he learned and assimilated the methods of the great names of Parisian haute couture, patiently building the foundations of his art until he fled the Spanish Civil War and settled in Paris in 1937. From the outset, in his very first collections, he asserted his style in the perfection of his cut and his fascination for jet black. He created a line that instated a new interplay between body and garment, yet whose fluidity had classic foundations. Profoundly influenced by his native culture, he constantly drew inspiration from it : toreadors’ capes, infanta-style dresses, vivid colors and black lace mantillas. Balenciaga pursued a sumptuous line and pure spirit.He softened the waist and exaggerated the shoulders drawing the eye towards the bust and neck. Mastering the techniques he had acquired, he used a wide variety of materials, especially thick, stiff, ribbed woolen cloths and irregularly textured fabrics, which he chose for their interaction with light. In February 1968, Balenciaga presented his last collection, closed his Paris couture house and retired to Spain. He was fond of saying : ‘A good couturier has to be an architect for the plans, a sculptor for the form, a painter for the color, a musician for the harmony and the philosopher for the measure’. His successors had their work cut out...Once called “the master of us all” by Christian Dior, Cristobal Balenciaga inspired (with his odd, feminine designs) designers such as Ungaro and Givenchy. Balenciaga died in March of 1972. Though the House of Balenciaga is now apart of the Gucci Group, his spirit is still apparent in every design.