Cristóbal Balenciaga Museoa

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Biography and milestones

1895 - 1972 "
He is the only true couturier among us.


Cristobal Balenciaga Museoa

1895. Cristóbal Balenciaga Eizaguirre is born in Getaria (Gipuzkoa) at 5 pm on January 21.  Begins sewing alongside his mother, Martina Eizaguirre, who works as a seamstress for the Marquesa de Casa Torres and other well-heeled families in the area. The marquesa's exquisite taste and collection of dresses from the finest Paris and London fashion houses introduces young Cristóbal to the refined lifestyle of the European elite.

1907. Moves to San Sebastián and begins a period of tailoring apprenticeship at Casa Gómez and New England, the finest tailoring establishments of the time.  In 1911 Balenciaga gains employment at Grandes Almacenes Au Louvre in San Sebastian and in only two years is named head of ladies' dressmaking. While working at Au Louvre, travels frequently to Paris and becomes familiar with the leading fashion houses in the international capital of fashion.  In 1914 moves to Bordeaux to work for a reputable tailor’s shop owned by friends.



Cristobal Balenciaga Museoa

1917. Opens his own house in San Sebastián at 2 Calle Vergara under the name C. Balenciaga. In 1918, forms partnership with San Sebastián merchants Benita and Daniela Lizaso, injecting new capital into the business; in 1919 formally registers business, with the Lizaso sisters as partners, under the name Balenciaga y Compañía for a period of six years (beginning in January 1918). The new company remains at 2 Calle Vergara.  

1924. After the dissolution of Balenciaga y Compañía, sets up on his own at 2 Avenida de la Libertad under the name Cristóbal Balenciaga. Queen María Cristina and Infanta Isabel Alfonsa become clients of Cristóbal Balenciaga; other ladies of the Spanish royal family and court follow suit. In 1927, founds Eisa Costura, dedicated to traditional quality dressmaking, at 10 Calle Oquendo in San Sebastian. The new establishment exists alongside the haute couture salon on on Avenida de la Libertad.

1931. The proclamation of the Second Republic leads to exile by many of Balenciaga's most distinguished customers, and to a drastic decline in haute couture. Balenciaga is forced to rethink his business. In 1932, opens new dressmaking establishment called B. E. Costura at 6 Calle Santa Catalina in San Sebastian. In 1933, closes Eisa Costura and B. E.  Costura and founds new establishment, EISA B. E.  Costura, on first-floor premises at 2 Avenida de la Libertad.  The firm Cristóbal Balenciaga moves to the second floor of the same building. Opens house in Madrid at 42 Calle Caballero de Gracia, and in 1935 opens house in Barcelona at 10 Calle Santa Teresa. 



Cristobal Balenciaga Museoa

1936. Outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Balenciaga leaves the country and sets up in Paris.  Suspends regular activities at houses in San Sebastian, Madrid and Barcelona. In July, creates the firm BALENCIAGA in partnership with Nicolás Bizcarrondo and Wladzio d'Attainville.  On August 5, presents first haute couture collection at 10 Avenue George V in Paris to wide acclaim. In 1938, changes name of San Sebastian establishment to Eisa Costura.  Madrid and Barcelona houses adopt the new name after the Spanish Civil War, in 1941 and 1942 respectively. 

1939. Presents a collection with deep historical influence and clear references to 17th-century fashion and styles of the Second French Empire. His “Infanta” dresses are an overwhelming success. Balenciaga’s 140s collections present features of traditional and historical Spanish fashion, mainly in his spectacular evening wear adorned with magnificent embroidery and passementerie. 

1945. At the end of the Second World War, Balenciaga takes part in the "Théâtre de la Mode", an itinerant exhibition of doll-size mannequins dressed in haute couture by the best designers of Paris. The exhibition travels throughout Europe and America in a joint endeavour aimed at claiming the role of Paris as the international centre of fashion.



Cristobal Balenciaga Museoa

1947. The House of Balenciaga launches its first perfume, Le Dix. Balenciaga presents the tonneau or barrel line, embarking on a period of experimenting with volume at the waist and back.  In 1951 Balenciaga opts again for fluidity and eschews the corseted silhouette in fashion since 1947.  Following the principles of the barrel line, he introduces the semi-fitted suit, characterised by volume at the back contrasted with fitted waist at the front.

1955. House of Balenciaga launches third perfume, Quadrille. Balenciaga presents the tunic, a two-piece dress with straight, carefully crafted lines which envelopes the body without restricting motion. The tunic dress is followed in 1957 by the sack dress, another step in the sartorial evolution that began with the barrel line in 1947. His pure and fluid lines continue to revolutionise the fashion of the time.

1958. Presents the baby doll dress, featuring a simple trapeze line effectively eliminating the waistline, and the peacock-tail dress, longer at the back than the front.  Textile house of Abraham creates gazar for Balenciaga, a fabric with sculptural qualities, appropriate for the couturier’s increasingly conceptual designs.  The French Government awards Balenciaga the title of Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur, in recognition of services to the fashion industry.  The international press acclaims him as "the Master" and the "King of Haute Couture". 



Cristobal Balenciaga Museoa

1959. Tailored suits feature short jackets and high waists.  The Empire line is featured in evening wear. 

1960. Designs wedding dress for Fabiola de Mora y Aragón, granddaughter of the Marquesa de Casa Torres and future Queen of Belgium. 

1963. Presents a range of elegant casual wear and surprises the public by launching the first line of haute couture boots designed by Mancini. Introduces increasingly purer and more abstract forms. Journalists and clients applaud the collection for its excellence and originality. 

1967. Balenciaga introduit des formes de plus en plus épurées et abstraites. Sa collection est acclamée par les journalistes et les acheteurs en raison de son savoir-faire extraordinaire et son originalité.

1968. Designs uniforms for Air France air hostesses. Presents last collection in spring, announces retirement and closes the houses in Paris, Madrid, Barcelona and San Sebastián. Balenciaga gives up haute couture after fifty years of dedication to his trade.



Cristobal Balenciaga Museoa

1972. Designs wedding dress for María del Carmen Martínez-Bordiú, Francisco Franco's granddaughter and future Duchess of Cadiz. Dies in Jávea (Alicante) on March 24 and is buried in the small cemetery in his hometown of Getaria.