From Humble Beginnings to Fashion Genius

When I was a young man I was told by a specialist that I could never pursue my chosen métier of couturier because I was far too delicate.
Nobody knows what a tough métier it is, how gruelling the work is. Underneath all this luxury and glamour, the truth is, it’s a dog’s life!

– Cristóbal Balenciaga

If, like us at Juliettes, you appreciate fabulous and groundbreaking design, you will be definitely be interested that the first UK exhibition dedicated to the famed Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga will be held at the V&A, from May this year.

Marking the 100th anniversary of the opening of his first fashion house and 80 years since he opened his famous Paris salon; the exhibition will feature around 100 garments and 20 hats by the couturier and his followers – as well as sketches, photographs, film and fabric samples.

Cristobal Balenciaga Eizaguirre was born in Getaria on January 21, 1895, in a humble house.
He was the youngest of five children two of whom died during childhood before Cristóbal was born.
His father was a mariner and his mother a seamstress, and both worked hard to provide for their young family.
In 1906 his father died suddenly, leaving his widow alone to provide for the children. Cristóbal was only 11 years old when his father died and by the age of 12 he was apprenticed to a local tailor.

Despite his hard childhood, Balenciaga was dedicated, talented and ambitious and by 1914 he opened the House of Balenciaga in San Sebastian, where most of his clients were aristocrats.

After the Spanish monarchy was deposed in the 1930s, Balenciaga moved to Paris. Here he became known for his striking black coats and dresses which recalled Spanish fashions of the Elizabethan age.

In Paris he created a reputation as a couturier of uncompromising standards. Perfectionist, extraordinarily technical, creative, innovative were some of the words used to describe the man who Christian Dior referred to as “the master of us all”. Oscar de la Renta believed he was the only fashion designer “who never did anything in bad taste”, and his protégé, Hubert de Givenchy, called him “my religion”.

Balenciaga once said women did not have to be perfect or beautiful to wear his clothes, because his clothes would make them beautiful.

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion

V&A Exhibitions
Fashion, Room 40

Saturday 27 May – Sunday 18 February 2018


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