When it comes to fashion innovators, few changed the game as much as Spanish designer Crisóbal Balenciaga. From clients such as Grace Kelly, admirers like Coco Chanel, and apprentices like Hubert de Givenchy, Balenciaga became known as “the master of us all,” a phrase coined by fellow famous designer Christian Dior. Balenciaga was not only a respected member of the fashion community and a talented tailor who treated designs like artwork, but a fundamental figure in the reshaping of the womenswear silhouette into what it is today, thanks to a number of influential sigature looks.
From a young age, Balenciaga honed his skills for sewing alongside his mother, a seamstress in a small town in Spain. During his teenage years, he obtained the attention of Marquesa de Casa Torres, a prominent noblewoman, who became his patron and sent him to Madrid to train formally as a tailor. This technique allowed Balenciaga to become one of the few courtiers who was able to pattern, cut, and tailor his own designs.
Balenciaga swiftly rose to prominence in Spain, where he opened boutiques in multiple locations and became a favorite for aristocrats and even royalty. When the Spanish Civil War forced his stores to close, Balenciaga moved to the fashion capital of the world: Paris. It was there that he started his own fashion house and gained the attention of the most prominent members of society and the fashion world.
Balenciaga’s brand remains a household name today, a century after he was born, with designs continuing to rule Haute Couture runways, music stages, and contemporary style. On his birthday, L’OFFICIEL looks back on the designer’s signature looks that revolutionized the shape of fashion.