Sunday, April 24, 2011


    Balenciaga and Spain
    De Young Museum
    March 26- July 4, 2011

    Greeted by a dim room that highlighted mannequins dressed in Spanish treasures designed by Cristobal Balenciaga, I was amazed by the rich Spanish culture that Balenciaga reflected in his fashions.

    Balenciaga and Spain Exhibit

    Balenciaga’s legacy provokes greater appreciation for Spanish fashion and art. His designs draw inspiration from 17th century Spanish paintings by Diego Velasquez, 20th century Cubist paintings by Pablo Picasso, Spanish monarch dress, Spanish bull fights, Flamingo dancers, and the Roman Catholic Church.

    Walking past each garment is awe-inspiring because each piece instilled different emotions through their colors, style lines, and silhouettes. Here is a peak at some of his brilliant designs:

    Balenciaga gained interest in fashion when he was young as he watched his hard-working mother sew. His first patron was a wealthy family for whom his mother sewed and did laundry for. 1 He opened his first haute couture house in 1918 in San Sebastian, Spain and subsequently opened two more in Madrid and Barcelona. He opened his first haute couture house in Paris in 1937 after seeing several Paris shows and observing French haute couture. 1, 2

    In the House of Balenciaga, he participated in each step of the production process to ensure that his design idea was successfully conveyed in the final garment. He took part in pattern drafting, making mock-ups, cutting the fabric, sewing, and fitting the final garment. He began his work early in the day and continued until late at night and only rested on Sundays. He emphasized quality in every aspect of his garments including construction and presentation.

    “The dress follows the woman’s body; it’s not the woman that follows the dress” Hubert de Givenchy reminisced, in a 2005 interview, as a key feature of Balenciaga’s clothing. 1

    Balenciaga closed his couture house in 1968 when the ready-to-wear industry was gaining momentum.1 After Balenciaga passed away in 1972, his nephews became heads of Balenciaga’s brand followed by Hoechst, Groupe Jacques Bogart, and currently, Nicholas Ghesquire is head and in partnership with Gucci Group.

    Currently the House of Balenciaga offers ready-to-wear women and men’s clothing and accessories. 2

    Balenciaga and Spain is an excellent opportunity for everyone to appreciate haute couture, learn more about Spain’s culture, and note shifts in fashions by comparing what Balenciaga designed to what we see today.

    For more information about the exhibit please visit:

    1. Walker, Myra. (2006). Balenciaga and His Legacy: Haute Couture from the Texas Fashion Collection. New Haven: Yale UP.

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