Cristóbal Balenciaga (born Jan. 21, 1895, Guetaria, Spain; died March 23, 1972, Valencia) was a Spanish dress designer who created elegant ball gowns and other classic designs.

Balenciaga began seriously studying dressmaking at the age of 10, when the death of his father, a sea captain, made it necessary for his mother to support the family by sewing. His first trip to Paris at 15 inspired him to become a couturier, and by age 20, he had his own dressmaking establishment at the fashionable summer resort of San Sebastián in Spain.
Cristóbal Balenciaga
The Spanish royal family and aristocracy particularly appreciated Balenciaga's creations. However, the Spanish Civil War forced him to close his boutiques and move to Paris, where he opened his own fashion house in 1937.
Balenciaga's Spanish heritage influenced many of his most iconic designs. His wide-hipped 'Infanta' dresses from the late 1930s drew on the portraiture of the 17th-century Spanish artist Diego Velazquez.
In the 1950s, while Christian Dior legitimized the New Look, Balenciaga sought to free women from the constraints of traditional silhouettes. He widened the shoulders, erased the waist, and eliminated the corset, creating the semi-tight suit in 1951, the balloon jacket in 1953, and the tunic dress in 1955.
Like many of Balenciaga's most radical designs, this look eventually filtered into the mainstream. The sack dress was the forerunner of the ubiquitous mini-dress of the 1960s – and remains a fashion staple today.
In 1958, Balenciaga presented the baby doll dress, cocoon coat, and balloon skirt. That same year, the Abraham house created a new fabric for Balenciaga called gazar, a silk raffia that allowed for new shapes thanks to its particular rigid structure.
Balenciaga's success culminated in the early 1960s with a reinterpretation of the classic empire dress.
Unlike some other high-profile designers of the era, Balenciaga was a very private individual. He refused to court the press, giving only one interview during his 50-year career.

In 1968, with the advent of Prêt-à-porter, Balenciaga retired, while remaining a great inspiration for subsequent internationally renowned designers such as Oscar de la Renta, André Courrèges, Emanuel Ungaro, and Hubert de Givenchy.
In 1986, the Balenciaga label relaunched under a series of Creative Directors. Of particular note are Nicolas Ghesquière – widely credited for reviving the label from 1997 to 2012 – and Demna Gvasalia, the current Creative Director who ensures the name Balenciaga is on everybody's lips today. Both designers have worked closely with the Balenciaga House archives, looking to the original designs by The Master for inspiration in cut, shape, and materials.

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