The House of Balenciaga was founded in San Sebastián, Spain in 1919 by Cristóbal Balenciaga. With the shift in Spain’s political climate in the 1930s, Cristóbal Balenciaga moved his already noted haute couture business to Paris, taking up position in 1937 at 10 Avenue George V, adjacent to Avenue Montaigne. The House’s modern Paris flagship store still operates from this address. For more than 30 years, the House of Balenciaga flourished through its haute couture business as well as its fragrances and jewellery and was celebrated around the world as one of the most influential couture houses. The House’s haute couture business was closed in 1968, and Cristóbal Balenciaga died just a few years later.
From then until the mid 1990s, the Balenciaga name became associated commercially primarily with the fragrance business. In the mid 1990s, the Paris-based owner determined to re-launch the fashion side of the brand as a support to their primary fragrance and licensing businesses.
Nicolas Ghesquière joined Balenciaga in 1995 as designer within the licensing team, building upon a decade of experience in the areas of ready-to-wear and knitwear with other brands. By 1997, he had taken over the creative helm of Balenciaga and set about revitalizing the brand. The international fashion world and the growing circle of Balenciaga aficionados rapidly marked Nicolas out as one of the world’s strongest up-and-coming designers.
In 2001, Gucci Group acquired control of Balenciaga and partnered with Nicolas Chesquière (as both Artistic Director and shareholder) to accelerate the worldwide development of Balenciaga. The company has modernized its production and commercial capabilities, while asserting its presence and brand identity through a strong network of shops and comers in Paris, London, New York, Los Angeles; Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong and other major fashion capitals. New product categories, among them bags and shoes, have been added to the widening ready-to-wear line-up for both women and men.
There was some conflict within the house of Balenciaga on Nicolas Ghesquiere's designs. The Gucci group said that if Balenciaga didn't become profitable within the year 2007, they would replace him. Ghesquière's F/W 2005 line showed that the house was not only profitable, but also attracted a number of celebrity customers including editor-in-chief at Vogue, Anna Wintour.
Today, the brand is also famous for its line of motorcycle-inspired handbags, especially the famous "Lariat". Balenciaga currently owns only two boutiques in the United States their U.S. headquarters in New York on W 22nd St. as well as a store in Honolulu. They currently are in the process of leasing a spot in the Mandarin Oriental in Boston which is to open in Summer of 2008. Balenciaga opened a boutique at the end of 2006 in Bangkok.
Balenciaga was revered by his fellow designers. They called him "The Master" because he created some of the most powerful styles of the twentieth century. His designs were admired fort he sophisticated, timeless style and cut. His work was both austere and extravagant, focusing on proportion and making certain that the cut of the cloth followed the lines of the body, always allowing freedom of movement. His daywear dresses, suits, and even hats were simple, practical and elegant. His evening designs allowed room for frivolity, using elaborate fabrics, heavy beading, feathers, and wide, puffy skirts. Many of his designs were inspired by Spanish regional dress and influenced by paintings of the old Spanish masters.
He was always fanatically precise about sleeves. He himself cut them mathematically and would never allow a less than perfect sleeve to leave his salon on anybody, even visitors. The perfect sleeve should be a living sculpture, beautiful to behold, a discreet play of subtle folds ensuring total comfort. Many people who came to his salon, had their coats snatched away by the Master for improvements to the sleeves. These included the wife of the Spanish Ambassador, Hubert de Givenchy and Bettina Ballard.
Black was very evident, the black of Spain, so deep in tone that all other blacks looked grey beside it. He used all the browns, from chocolate to nutmeg, palest aquamarine, ice or hot pink, goldenrod, peacock blue, melon orange and teal green. He rarely used printed fabrics, preferring embroidery or sequins.
His most faithful clients included : the Queen of Spain, the Queen of Belgium, the Duchess of Windsor, Princess Grace of Monaco, all regularly recognized in the press as the best-dressed women in the world. On March 24, 1972, the undisputed Master of all the great couturiers - the man who inspired GIVENCHY, UNGARO, SCHERRER, COURREGES and many others - passed away in Valencia
Jennifer Connelly, Nicole Kidman,