1. The origins of Balenciaga
  2. The creations by Cristòbal Balenciaga
    2.1. International fame 
  3. The end of Cristòbal’s career 
  4. The rebirth with Nicolas Ghesquièr
    4.1. Balenciaga and the new millennium
  5. The revolution of Demna Gvsalia 


French fashion house based in Paris, founded in 1917 by Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga. The Spanish designer is considered one of the greatest and most influential designers of the twentieth century. Born in 1895, in Guetaria, a village on the Basque coast of Spain, he became passionate about tailoring from an early age.

In fact, he follows his mother in the creation of garments that he sewed on commission. To encourage his career will be one of the richest women in the country, the Marquise of Casa Torres. She every year she went on summer vacation to Guetaria and she was always amazed by the child’s manual dexterity.


Legend has it that in five days the young Cristóbal will sew her a model identical to her Poiret suit , leaving everyone amazed. It will be she who will find him a first job in a fashion atelier in Madrid, so as to allow him to seriously learn the tailoring profession.


In 1915, in his early twenties, Balenciaga opened its first boutique in San Sebastian. Later he opened two other ateliers in Madrid and Barcelona, ​​which he will call by the name of his mother, Elisa. Every six months she will also go to Paris, where she will go to buy the models of the great tailors (the Chanels were his favorite of her). They will then go on to dress the Spanish aristocratic elite as well as the royal family. At the same time you will start creating your own models. Original silhouettes that, not much later, will make him one of the most acclaimed and influential characters in the fashion world.

BalenciagaCristóbal Balenciaga 1968

In 1937, in the middle of the civil war, he fled to Paris. Here, thanks to a loan granted to him by another Spanish refugee, he will open his headquarters at 10 rue George V. The importance of the success of the first collection will be fundamental to obtain funding for the following ones. And it was success, along with money, fame and glory. As a first collection he will present a line inspired by the Spanish Renaissance; within two years he will be consecrated by the international press as one of the greatest designers in Paris.


However, it will be after the Second World War, at the peak of the maison’s success, that it will give its best in terms of creations and models. Rules and proportions will be the watchwords. Other creations will follow such as the tweed suit with a displaced and fringed collar (his obsession) characterized by four large front buttons (still today taken up as a model by contemporaries) as well as the most avant-garde creations such as the short balloon jacket, the immense kimonos and the architectural asymmetry typical of some tunics that will make history.

Envelope dress 1967Envelope dress 1967

Dresses not for everyone, but on the contrary for few women, since money and business had never been too important for Cristóbal who at the time boasted the Marquise Llanzol, the most elegant woman in Spain, Loel Guinness, the duchess of Windsor, Countess Idarica Gazzoni as well as royal clients such as Fabiola of Belgium. The Maestro liked women who were confident and endowed with innate elegance; one of his beliefs was just this: “No tailor can make a woman elegant if she is not naturally elegant”.

BalenciagaThe 1950 Baloon dress


International success for Cristóbal came when he was already 42 despite all the hype surrounding his creations. The designer will never be seen in public, he will never greet journalists and buyers at the end of the fashion shows and will always remain in the shadows of confidentiality.

Attitude that will join the extremely severe way of conceiving the fashion shows, with a college rigor and with the overcoming of some rules imposed by the Chamber of Fashion on the presentation of models such as proposing the fashion show the day before the clothes are put on the market, for avoid the plagiarism of other stylists or the choice of showing particularly ugly mannequins without frills, hairstyles or, even worse, the much hated curls. Over time, this cold attitude, combined with the contrasting extraordinary beauty and avant-garde of the models,

Balenciaga60s dress

It was known that he did not like advertising and frequenting, if not the company of his dog and few people, including only his closest relatives, in particular his beloved sister Augustina who was happy to visit every summer in San Sebastien. In Barcelona, ​​where his nephew José Balenciaga directed one of his ateliers, he, on the other hand, will never set foot. He was also notoriously a collector of houses and apartments. He only had six in Paris but it seems that he always complained and that his country house was furnished with luxurious furniture and curious appliances of all kinds.

Despite the brand’s success, Cristóbal Balenciaga turned down many tempting offers aimed at expanding his company’s business, including an invitation to design a ready-to-wear line. Despite this, he will be extremely precise and will know how to recognize the value of his work by always getting paid regularly on delivery, even by the most prestigious clients. Precisely for this reason, under his direction, the company never experienced moments of crisis or debt.


During his career he will not fail to collaborate as a costume designer for theater and cinema, working on the dresses for Alice Cocéa and Suzet Maïs in Lovers without tomorrow by Armand Salacrou (1940) and on the black sequin cloaks for Christiane Barry in the Orphée of Cocteau; she will also make the clothes for Arletty in Jean Boyer’s Bolero film, as well as the costumes for Ingrid Bergman in Anatole Litvak’s Anastasia.

In 1968 she decided to retire to the great disappointment of her customers and more loyal supporters such as Countess Mona Bismark who, disappointed by the news of her, seems to have remained closed for three days at home. Cristóbal died four years later, in 1972, in Javea, Spain, leaving the company as an inheritance to his nephew. In 1973 Diana Vreeland, then director of Vogue America, will celebrate the Maestro by dedicating to him a first major retrospective entitled The World of Balenciaga at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.


After years in dim light, the company will first be taken over by the German Hoechst group and then, in 1986, it will be transferred to the Jacques Bogart group which will relaunch the maison with the first prêt-à-porter collection. Entitled Le Dix, the new ready-to-wear line will take its name from the house number of the historic atelier in rue George V; the line will first be developed under the creative direction of Michael Goma, who will remain at the helm for five years, replaced, in 1992, by Josephus Thimister, who will lay the foundations for the brand’s renewal towards a more modern conception of luxury fashion.


The foundations of the brand’s rebirth will then be masterfully taken up by the Franco-Belgian designer Nicolas Ghesquière who, after two years of internal apprenticeship in the company as a designer of licensed products, in 1997 will become the head designer of the house. Ghesquière has a self-taught training, just like his founding father Cristóbal, as well as previous experiences for Jean Paul Gaultier and Agnès B.

He will be the real responsible for the brand’s rebirth on the modern market. In fact, he will reinterpret iconic dresses from the glorious collections of the past in a contemporary way. These dresses will attract the attention of celebrities including Madonna and Sinead O’Connor, who with their image will contribute to the notoriety and dissemination of the brand.

Balenciaga by GhesquièreBalenciaga by Ghesquière

Collection after collection, Nicolas Ghesquière appropriates the stylistic codes of Cristóbal and bends them to the story of modernity, permeating the brand with strong references to the street, to street culture, punk, disco and in general to the contemporary.

Balenciaga’s aesthetics will become one of the most disruptive in the fashion world due to the ability to create harmonic collages of apparently completely different and distant signs. The commercial results will not be immediately exciting precisely because the designer’s interest will be much more towards the visual story than towards the portability of the product.

Over time, however, the brand will not only not disappoint in its commercial performance but will also get strong support from operators in the sector. Primarily by the influential editor of Vogue America, Anna Wintour, who will be photographed more than once wearing the designer’s creations but also by a number of celebrities including Nicole Kidman, for whom she will create her second wedding dress, Kylie Minogue, for the dresses of the Slow and Red Blooded videos Woman and Jennifer Connelly for the 2006 Oscars awards ceremony.


Today the brand is recognized above all for the Motorcycle Le Dix line of bags, launched in 2001 by Ghesquière himself. In a few years it has become one of the most desired status symbol fashion products by women. An impeccable design characterized by a casual look, perfect measurements, eye-catching details. Such as the front pocket with zipper, studs and zip, handles with large embossed stitching, as well as the high quality of the leather. (The more it ages the more it becomes beautiful) will make the Motorcycle an object of desire.

Countless celebrities, especially young stars such as Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Kate Moss , Vanessa Hudgens and Gisele Bündchen, have been photographed with the different bag models, declined in many colors and shapes, contributing to the desirability of the product.

Motorcycle bagMotorcycle bag

The maison is part of the PPR Luxury Group division , active in the luxury goods segment. The group is the first competitor of the giant LVMH , to which it fiercely contends for market leadership. They create ready-to-wear clothing, shoes, accessories and fragrances sold all over the world. It boasts a network of 42 single-brand stores and through a selection of multi-brand boutiques and department stores.

Following the international market trends, between 2008 and 2010, the company has strongly concentrated its investments on Asian soil. In China alone, the maison has opened four new boutiques in the cities of Beijing, Shenzhen and Hangzhou as well as one in Hong Kong. Russia, Thailand, Singapore and South Korea, together with the Middle East, will also be territorial targets for the expansion of commercial activities. Here, in fact, several partnership and franchising agreements will be signed for the sale of Balenciaga branded products.

In 2011, further investments were made to strengthen the commercial presence on the Asian Eldorado. As well as the entry into the online business with the opening of a new site. Notably, including an online shop, for the moment only aimed at the French market.


Ghesquière left the house in 2012. After Ghesquière, Alexander Wang led the house for a few years, until 2015. He too goes back to his origins, looking at Cristobal and reinterpreting the codes under an urban key.

Spring Summer 2017Spring Summer 2017

In 2015 Demna Gvasalia becomes, after the experiences at Louis Vuitton and Margiela and after launching Vetements , the new creative director of Balenciaga. His work marked a new aesthetic course, not only in the maison, but in fashion in general, bringing the so-called post-Soviet style to the fore. Volumes, a mixture of different materials, a reinterpretation of the Balenciaga classics in a contemporary perspective.

The idea of ​​the Kitch that becomes chic, the ugliness that becomes beauty. Together with Alessandro Michele , he is the creator of this new conception of collaboration in fashion. The two teamed up in 2021 for Gucci ‘s centenary, creating a collection in which the heritage of Balenciaga is hacked by the Florentine maison, an encounter between different aesthetic languages ​​that symbolizes a new way of structuring collaborations.


Expect the unexpected , with these words Cèdric Charbit, CEO of Balenciaga, announces the Spring / Summer 2022 fashion show. Clothes, but as regards the way to communicate the new proposals. A red carpet that becomes a catwalk of stars and followers of the brand who wear the new proposals. Significantly, with guests who, unbeknownst to the public, become the models of the show. And then a short film by The Simpsons in which the fashion system is ironic. Demna’s stated goal was to entertain the public, redefine the boundaries and thus the brand approaches the world of entertainment.

Balenciaga SimpsonsBalenciaga Simpsons


He did it again

Paris Fashion Week, Balenciaga presents Sunglasses At Night