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A deliberate style icon

The Balenciaga high fashion house was founded in 1918 by Spaniard Cristobal Balenciaga, who has since become an international style icon.

The son of a fisherman, Cristobal Balenciaga was born in 1895 in Guetaria on the Basque coast in Spain. Since he was a child he nurtured a passion for fashion, spending time sowing next to his mother, who rounded off the family salary as a seamstress. Legend has it that in just five days he had perfectly replicated a model by Poiret, earning himself the respect of the ladies in the neighbourhood. This well-earned reputation helped him open workshop in San Sebastian, Madrid and Barcelona and in 1937 in Paris, while the civil war raged on in Spain.

In the 50s his style featured tailoring components such as lace, boleros, red and black contrast and rich embroideries. These distinctive signs coexisted on collared shirts, balloon dresses and tight-fitting suits. Balenciaga created clothes for the elite and the aristocrats of Europe in an age where clothes stood for discreet elegance, refinement, and moderation.

At the end of the 60s, Balenciaga reached the peak of his creative career, with his collections boasting austere simplicity and innovative design. Ready-to-wear wasn’t part of Balenciaga’s repertoire. As the true tailor he was, he adapted each garment to the client’s silouette. Today, under Demna Gvasalia’s creative direction, Balenciaga offers collections, footwear and accessories whose avant-garde design continues to arouse admiration. After Cristobal’s departure, the maison was successfully entrusted to Nicolas Ghesquière, Alexander Wang and nowadays to Demna Gvasalia. The designer’s mix of haute couture and streetwear lets Balenciaga combine a radically cool look with traditional refinement.