The high-end luxury brand is a fashion house founded by Critobal Balenciaga.  He is a Spanish designer with a reputation as a couturier of uncompromised standards.  Currently owned by the French multinational company PPR, his signature trademark consists of bubble skirts with are odd, feminine and yet ultra modern.

For Cristobal Balenciaga, began his fashion empire with his first boutique in Spain in 1918.  From there, he expanded and opened stores in Madrid and Barcelona.  Many of his customers consisted of the Spanish royal family and aristocrats.  Unfortunately, the Spanish Civil War forced him to close his stores and move to Paris, France.  There, Balenciaga opened a Paris couture house along Avenue George V in August 1937.  In Paris, his first runway show displayed heavy influences from the Spanish Renaissance.  This allowed him to gain some notoriety, success, and popularity.  So much so that followers risked their safety to travel to Paris from various parts of Europe to see him during World War II.  During that period, Balenciaga was noted for his “Square Coat.”  This consisted of sleeve cuts that were cut in a single piece with the yoke.  Much of his designs were black (or brown) laced over bright pink fabric.

In the post-war years, Balenciaga’s trademark became more developed and pronounced.  His designs became more inventive and original.  His lines more linear and sleek, entirely changing the view of women’s silhouette.  In 1951, Balenciaga pushed further by transforming the silhouette through broadening the shoulders and removing the waistline.  In 1955, he designed a tunic dress which was later developed into a chemise in 1958.  Some examples of his design and influence include:

Spherical Balloon Jacket (1953)







High Wasted Baby Doll Dress (1957)






Cocoon Coat (1957)










The Balloon Skirt (1957)








The Sack Dress (1957)









In 1959, the Empire Line was created through using a high-waisted dress and coats, much like a kimono.  In many ways, his most important contribution to the fashion world was redefining a new silhouette for women.

Beginning in 1960, Balenciaga began innovating further with his designs.  He used heavy fabrics, intricate embroidery, and bold materials.  He also created collars that stood away from the collarbone which formed a swanlike appearance and shortened the bracelet sleeve, another one of his hallmarks.  For the 1950s and 1960s, Balenciaga was considered a master in haute couture to such an extent that he designed the wedding dress for Queen Fabiola of Belgium.  His influence can also be seen in other well-known designers whom tutelage consisted of Oscar de la Renta (1949), Andre Correges (1950), Emanuel Ungaro (1958), and Hubert de Givenchy.

In 1957, a well-known conflict with the fashion press began in which Balenciage decided only to unveil his new designs to retailers one day before the retail selling date.  This went against the standard norm of four weeks before retail date.  Despite doing this for 10 years…Balenciaga finally relented in 1967 and followed the rest of the industry.

In 1968, Balenciaga closed his fashion house and died in 1972.  The fashion house laid dormant until 1986.  At that time, Jacques Bogard S.A. acquired the rights to Balenciaga and opened a new ready-to-wear line called “Le Dix.”  The first collection was designed by Michel Goma in 1987.  Unfortunately, the next five years the line only gained mixed reviews at best.  Goma was then replaced in 1992 by Dutch designer Jsephus Thimister, who began rebuilding Balenciaga into the high-end luxury brand it is today.  Much of the creative designs came from Nicholas Ghesquiere, whom would eventually be promoted to head designer in 1997.

Currently, Gucci (part of PPR as noted above) owns Balenciaga.  Ghesquiere now heads both the mens and womenswear divisions by reinterpreting Balenciaga classics such as semi-fitted jackets and sack dress.  Celebrities wearing the fashion house include Madonna and Sinead O’Connor.  By 2005, Balenciaga was making profit.  Other celebrities joined such as Anna Wintour, Jennifer Connelly, Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban, and Kylie Minogue.

Today’s well-known items include the motorcycle-inspired handbags “Lariat.”  Balenciaga’s empire continues to grow globally around the world, attracting new follows everyday. 



The Cocoon Shape

The Balloon Shape

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