Discover what luxury meant in the Balenciaga's haute couture house.
Cristóbal Balenciaga: A master of haute couture
Cristóbal Balenciaga revolutionized the concept of dressing and the female silhouette. For him, perfection was an obligation and his extraordinary technical skils facilitated the task. As a result of his innovative personality, he sought greater simplicity and purity of forms. He was hailed by fashion designer Coco Chanel as "the only true couturier amongst us, able to design, cut, assemble and sew a dress entirely by himself."
Cristóbal Balenciaga deserves the title of “The Master” due to the perfection of his creations and ability to be ahead of his time by creating a new technical and visual language for the female silhouette. His work has stood the test of time is even more relevant today.
Luxury means different things for different people: uniqueness, exclusiveness, an status statement...in the Haut Couture world of Maison Balenciaga it meant also to access a source of elegance, self confidence, and figure enhancement without relinquishing comfort or practicality, all of it worked out through a perfect fabric choice, cut and fit.
The Balenciagas, - as the firms’ most loyal clients were named by some journalists -, felt comfortable and reassure in their clothes, ready to success in their social lives. Diana Vreeland, fashion editor of Harper's Bazaar said; “In a Balenciaga, you were the only woman in the room – no other woman existed“.
Distinguished personalities of the 20th century such as Mona Von Bismarck, Bunny Mellon, Barbara Hutton, Grace Kelly, Madame Jack Bousquet or Madeline Dittenfofer wore Balenciaga's creations.
Fashion shows for clients used to start following the official presentation of the collection and were run at daily bases during two months. The mannequins, full time workers at the firm, were permanently at the disposal of the customers to wear, in silence, the models chosen for them.
Mannequins were selected by having the anatomic features that adapted to the Balenciaga style, as well as the grace of movements and altive stare necessary to embodied his concept of elegance.
Key figures at the maison
The saleswomen, key figures of the maison, were perfectly familiar with the social circles and lifestyle of their customers. Elegant and educated, they were uniformed with the firm's models in discreet tones. They accompanied the customers throughout the entire process with exquisite carte.
The relationship between the customer and the assistant became so close that many customers left in their hand the preselection of models, which were sent as drafts, along the possible samples of fabric.
The fitting was a key step in this process. Customers were led by their personal vendeuse to the changing room, where a fitting assistant fitted the toiles to the lady's size. The customer knew that, from that moment on, she would have a series of appointments for the weekly fittings, always adhering to an unspoken rule: no discussions over the features of the model or the price.
"The first fitting at Balenciaga is worth the third at any other house". Marlene Dietrich.
Buyers from department stores such as Harrods, Bloomingdales or Saks went to the presentation of the collection seeking models that were easily identifiable with the designer.
They pursue Balenciaga models already completed in order to be able to copy them a large number of times with the label "inspired by Balenciaga" or "adapted from an original Balenciaga".
In the picture, Balenciaga for Dan Millstein.
The lucky few
But they were also ordinary fortunate women who could wear a Balenciaga in extraordinary cirumstanteces, which made us learn a bit about Balenciaga’s personality.
Cristóbal Balenciaga: The Experience of Luxury
Organiser: Cristóbal Balenciaga Museoa
Curator: Igor Uria
© Fundación Cristóbal Balenciaga