The eponymous brand of Cristobal Balenciaga – a man frequently referred to as the ‘King of Couture’ – has, like most fashion brands, had its ups and downs. One thing it has always stood for, however, is innovation. From the envelope pushing silhouettes and cuts devised by its founder to its modern guise under fashion world disruptor Demna Gvasalia, read on for a potted history of the house of Balenciaga.
Cristobal Balenciaga opens his first haute couture atelier in San Sebastien, Spain. This is followed by boutiques in Madrid and Barcelona.
The Spanish Civil War breaks out and Balenciaga relocates to the epicentre of high fashion, Paris, with a boutique on 10 Avenue George V. His first collection is shown to press and buyers the same year, receiving critical acclaim.
Balenciaga creates costumes for Jean Cocteau’s play Orphee.
After showing his final collection, Cristobal Balenciaga closes his couture house and retires to Spain.
Thimister is fired after the audience walks out during his AW97 show due to a punishingly loud soundtrack.
The relatively unknown Nicolas Ghesquière is appointed creative director, putting himself and the house back on the map with his talent for silhouettes and use of elegantly chaotic floral prints.
Alexander Wang becomes creative director, imbuing the brand with his sporty all-American look while retaining references to Balenciaga’s iconic designs. Celebrity clients include Lady Gaga, Zoe Kravitz and Julianne Moore.
Later that year Balenciaga collaborates with online video game Fortnite and create a collaborative episode of The Simpsons – clear evidence of Gvasalia’s appreciation for what has gone before, as well as his understanding of the need to innovate and his wish to position Balenciaga at the forefront of the increasing media-isation of fashion brands.