Casey Mackenzie Johnson

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA219

Christóbal Balenciaga (1895–1972) was born to a seamstress in Getaria, a small fishing village in Basque Spain, and was formally trained as a tailor. He opened his first boutique in San Sebastián in 1919 but was forced to close and move to Paris when the Spanish Civil War broke out.

Balenciaga opened his couture house in 1937, creating highly original clothing made with innovative and bold fabrics. During World War II he created the much celebrated “square coat,” which had sleeves cut in a single piece with the yoke. After the war, he was known for his sculptural and fluid designs.

Balenciaga’s perfectionism, technique, and knowledge of garment construction gave important touches to his clothing, including the innovation of the bracelet sleeve and a collar that stood away from the neck to make it appear more “swan-like.”

Balenciaga retired to Spain in 1968 saying, “There is no one left worth dressing.” He died at home in 1972. The House of Balenciaga was revived in 1987 with Michel Goma, followed by Josephus Melchior Thimister in 1992, but it was not until Nicolas Ghesquière took over in 1997 that the spirit of Balenciaga was fully realized again. With Ghesquière at the helm, Balenciaga saw creative and commercial success. In 2012, he was replaced by Alexander Wang, a young and accomplished designer known for his easy, youthful, punk take on sportswear.

Balenciaga, Fall/Winter 1996. Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Alexander Wang.” Voguepedia, n.d. .

Balenciaga.” Voguepedia, n.d. .

Christóbal Balenciaga (1895–1972).” Metropolitan Museum of Art, n.d. (accessed 26 February 2014).

Find in Library Jones T. , and S. Rushton , eds. Fashion Now 2 . Cologne : Taschen, 2005.