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Balenciaga S.A.
TypeSociété anonyme
  • Balenciaga y Compañía
  • EISA, S.A.
Founded1919; 103 years ago (1919)
FounderCristóbal Balenciaga
Area served
Key people
Number of employees
1,325 (2019)

Balenciaga SAS (/bəˌlɛnsiˈɑːɡə/ bə-LEN-see-AH-gə;[1]) is a Spaniard luxury fashion house founded in 1919 by the Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga in San Sebastian, Spain and later acquired by French luxury group Kering. Balenciaga had a reputation as a couturier of uncompromising standards and was called "the master of us all" by Christian Dior.[2] His bubble skirts and odd, feminine, yet "modernistic" silhouettes became the trademarks of the house.[3] Balenciaga closed in 1972 and was reopened under new ownership in 1986. Owned by Kering, Balenciaga headquarters are in Paris.


Balenciaga dresses on display in Florence, Italy

Cristóbal Balenciaga opened his first boutique in San Sebastián, Spain, in 1919, and expanded to include branches in Madrid and Barcelona.[4] The Spanish royal family and the aristocracy wore his designs. When the Spanish Civil War forced him to close his stores, Balenciaga moved to Paris.[4][5]

Balenciaga opened his Paris couture house on Avenue George V in August 1937, where his first fashion show featured designs heavily influenced by the Spanish Renaissance.[4] Balenciaga's success was nearly immediate. In the period of two years, the press lauded him as a revolutionary, and his designs were highly sought-after.[4] Carmel Snow, the editor of Harper's Bazaar, was an early champion of his designs.[6]

Customers risked their safety to travel to Europe during World War II to see Balenciaga's clothing.[4] During this period, he was noted for his "square coat", with sleeves cut in a single piece with the yoke, and for his designs with black (or black and brown) lace over bright pink fabric.[4] Historians believe that Balenciaga's continued activity during the Nazi occupation of Paris was made possible by Balenciaga's connections with Adolf Hitler's close ally, General Francisco Franco.[7] The company was one of only 60 companies allowed to operate during the occupation, and the ongoing supply of raw materials from Spain, which were in short supply in Paris at the time due to the war, gave Balenciaga a competitive advantage. However, Balenciaga testified that he refused Hitler's request to transfer his company's activities to Berlin.[8][9]

However, it was not until the post-war years that the full scale of the inventiveness of this highly original designer became evident. His lines became more linear and sleek, diverging from the hourglass shape popularized by "Christian Dior's New Look".[4] The fluidity of his silhouettes enabled him to manipulate the relationship between his clothing and women's bodies.[4] In 1951, he transformed the silhouette, broadening the shoulders and removing the waist. In 1955, he designed the tunic dress, which later developed into the chemise dress of 1958.[4] Other contributions in the postwar era included the spherical balloon jacket (1953), the high-waisted baby doll dress (1957), the cocoon coat (1957), the balloon skirt (1957), and the sack dress (1957).[4] In 1959, his work culminated in the Empire line, with high-waisted dresses and coats cut like kimono. His manipulation of the waist, in particular, contributed to "what is considered to be his most important contribution to the world of fashion: a new silhouette for women."[4]

In the 1960s, Balenciaga was an innovator in his use of fabrics: he tended toward heavy fabrics, intricate embroidery, and bold materials.[4] His trademarks included "collars that stood away from the collarbone to give a swanlike appearance" and shortened "bracelet" sleeves.[4] His often spare, sculptural creations—including funnel-shape gowns of stiff duchess satin worn to acclaim by clients such as Pauline de Rothschild, Bunny Mellon, Marella Agnelli, Hope Portocarrero, Gloria Guinness, and Mona von Bismarck—were considered masterworks of haute couture in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1960, he designed the wedding dress for Queen Fabiola of Belgium made of ivory duchess satin trimmed with white mink at the collar and the hips. Jackie Kennedy famously upset her husband by buying Balenciaga's expensive creations while John F. Kennedy was president, he apparently feared that the American public might think the purchases too lavish. Her haute couture bills were eventually discreetly paid by her father-in-law, Joseph Kennedy.[10]


Several designers who worked for Balenciaga would go on to open their own successful couture houses, notably Oscar de la Renta (1949), Andre Courreges (1950), Emanuel Ungaro (1958), but his most famous and noted protégé was Hubert de Givenchy, who was the lone designer to side with Balenciaga against the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne and also the press over the scheduling of his shows.[citation needed]

Battle against the press[edit]

In 1957, Balenciaga famously decided to show his collection to the fashion press the day before the clothing retail delivery date, not the standard four weeks before the retail delivery date the fashion industry followed at the time. By keeping the press unaware of the design of his garments until the day before they were shipped to stores, he hoped to curtail ongoing piracy and copying of his designs. The press resisted, finding it nearly impossible to get his work into their print deadlines, but Balenciaga and protégé Givenchy stood firm, seriously impacting their coverage and press of the era. His supporters would argue that rival Christian Dior would gain acclaim from copying Balenciaga's silhouettes and cuts, claiming them as his own original work; because Balenciaga was not interested in press coverage, the media, and consumers never knew.

In 1967, both designers reversed their decision and joined the traditional schedule.

Battle against the Chambre[edit]

Balenciaga defiantly resisted the rules, guidelines, and bourgeoisie status of the Chambre syndicale de la haute couture parisienne, and, thus, was never a member. Although he is spoken of with immense reverence, technically, Balenciaga couture was never haute couture.[citation needed]

Cristóbal Balenciaga closed his fashion house in 1968 and died in 1972. The house lay dormant until 1986.[4]

Since 1986[edit]

Balenciaga exhibit, Fine Arts Museum (Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao), Bilbao, Spain

In 1986, Jacques Bogart S.A. acquired the rights to Balenciaga, and opened a new ready-to-wear line, "Le Dix". The first collection was designed by Michel Goma in October 1987, who remained at the house for the next five years to mixed reviews. He was replaced in 1992 with Dutch designer Josephus Thimister who began the restoration of Balenciaga to high-fashion status.[citation needed] During Thimister's term, Nicolas Ghesquière would join as a license designer, and eventually was promoted to head designer in 1997.[citation needed]

In 1992, House of Balenciaga designed the French team's clothes for the Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona.[citation needed]

Balenciaga is now owned by Kering and its womenswear and menswear was headed by Nicolas Ghesquière.[11] Ghesquière, like Balenciaga, is a self-taught designer, and apprenticed to Jean-Paul Gaultier and Agnes b. The fresh interpretation of Balenciaga classics, such as the semifitted jacket and the sack dress, caught the attention of the media as well as such celebrities as Madonna and Sinéad O'Connor.[citation needed]

In 2002, Balenciaga's star, Nicolas Ghesquiere, imitated the work of Kaisik Wong, a designer from San Francisco. Ghesquiere created a patchwork vest in his spring collection that resembled one that Wong designed in 1973. Ghesquiere admitted in an interview in Paris that he had copied the garment.[12]

There was some conflict within the House of Balenciaga on Ghesquiere's designs, with the Gucci group saying that if Balenciaga didn't make any money in 2007 they would replace him.[citation needed] Ghesquière's F/W 2005 line showed that the house was not only making money, but also attracted a number of celebrity customers including editor-in-chief at Vogue, Anna Wintour.

The House of Balenciaga designed the dresses worn by Jennifer Connelly and Nicole Kidman to the 2006 Academy Awards, as well as the wedding gown Kidman wore when she married Keith Urban.[13] Kylie Minogue also wore a Balenciaga dress for her "Slow" and "Red Blooded Woman" music videos and for her concert tour.[14]

Today, the brand is best known for its line of motorcycle-inspired handbags, especially the "Lariat".[15] Balenciaga has eight exclusive boutiques in the United States. One Balenciaga store is located on 22nd St in New York City, New York. A second store is located in Los Angeles, California, on Melrose Avenue. Recently, a third store opened at the South Coast Plaza, in Costa Mesa, California. This store is 1,200 square feet (110 m2) and includes coffin-like inset displays. The New York and Los Angeles boutiques carry both men's and women's ready-to-wear, while the South Coast Plaza boutique carries only women's clothing. A fourth, located in Las Vegas inside Caesars Palace, carries only accessories. An additional location on the Las Vegas Strip, in Crystals at CityCenter, sells accessories as well as women's ready-to-wear. The boutique at Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, offers men's and women's ready-to-wear and accessories. There is a store at the Bal Harbour shops in Bal Harbour, Florida. An eighth store is opening spring 2014 in Dallas, Texas, at the Highland Park Village to become the first boutique in Texas. The Highland Park Village boutique is opening next to Christian Dior and will carry men's and women's ready to wear and accessories. All of the boutiques employ spirited architecture, with white paneling, marble, and glass work as well as black leather seats and light green, black and navy carpets or white tiles, emphasizing the brand's lean toward avant-garde and the drama of fashion.[citation needed]

Balenciaga's Fall/Winter 2007 show impressed Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Amy Astley so much that an entire spread in the magazine, titled "Global Studies" and shot in Beijing, was influenced by it. The line included skinny jodhpurs, tight, fitted blazers, beaded embellished scarves, and other multicultural mixes.

Balenciaga is known for creating avant-garde, advanced structural pieces, straddling the edge of fashion and forecasting the future of women's ready-to-wear fashion. Vintage Balenciaga garments are popular among fashion editors, Hollywood stars, and models, and have been seen on Sienna Miller,[16] Lara Bingle, Raquel Zimmerman,[17] Caroline Trentini, Emmanuelle Alt,[18] Tatiana Sorokko,[19] Hilary Rhoda, Jennifer Garner, and Stephanie Seymour, among others.[20] Balenciaga is also frequently worn by actress Chloë Sevigny, who is also a muse of Nicolas Ghesquiere.

Since 2010[edit]

In March 2011 at San Francisco's M. H. de Young Museum, Balenciaga celebrated the opening of Balenciaga and Spain, a 120-piece fashion retrospective of Cristóbal Balenciaga's career. The exhibition included many designs from the museum's encyclopedic costume collection. "You can't even measure it", said Rodarte designer Laura Mulleavy of Cristóbal Balenciaga's influence.[21] The $2,500-a-ticket fund-raiser for the museum drew 350 guests, including Denise Hale, Marissa Mayer, Vanessa Getty, Victoria Traina, Vanessa Traina, Jamie Tisch, Gwyneth Paltrow, Orlando Bloom, Balthazar Getty, Maggie Rizer, Connie Nielsen, Maria Bello, and Mia Wasikowska.[21]

In June 2011, the Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum opened in Getaria, Gipuzkoa, Spain.[22]

In November 2012, Balenciaga announced that it was parting with creative director Nicolas Ghesquière, ending his 15-year tenure.[23][24] The brand announced Alexander Wang its new creative director.[24][25] Wang presented his first collection for the label on 28 February 2013 at Paris Fashion Week. In 2014, the Tribunal de grande instance de Paris set a trial date for the lawsuit between Balenciaga vs. Ghesquière.[26] Balenciaga claimed that Ghesquière's comments in the magazine System had hurt the company's image.[27] The highly publicized suit was mediated out of court.

In July 2015, Balenciaga announced it was parting with creative director Alexander Wang after three years. The Spring/Summer 2016 show was his last, featuring white lounge wear made from soft, natural fabrics.[28] In early October 2015, the brand appointed Demna Gvasalia as its new creative director.[29]

In, April 2021 Gvasalia presented his new Pre-Fall 2021 collection, as promoted by Vanity Teen magazine.[30] In August 2021, Justin Bieber was announced as the new face of Balenciaga.[31] In September 2021, the brand faced backlash when it released trompe-l'œil sweatpants with the illusion of plaid boxers sticking out the top with a price tag of $1,190.[32] In May 2022, Balenciaga announced that it accepts crypto payments.[33][34]

Support for Ukraine[edit]

In March 2022, during the Paris Fashion Week, the brand expressed its support for Ukraine, which was badly affected by the Russian invasion during the Russian-Ukrainian War. T-shirts in the yellow and blue of the Ukrainian flag were placed on every chair. Balenciaga's creative director Demna Gvasalia recited a poem by Ukrainian writer Oleksandr Oles "Live Ukraine, live for beauty" and at the beginning and end of the show. He noted that this show is self-explanatory, as it is a dedication to "fearlessness, resistance, and the victory of love and peace."[35]

The brand made donations to the UN World Food Programme to support Ukrainian refugees.[36]

Creative directors[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

In the 1997 film For Richer or Poorer, Tim Allen's character accidentally sets a Balenciaga dress on fire. He tries laughing at it, rhetorically asking, "What the hell's a Balenciaga?"

On January 29, 2014, the character Myrtle Snow cries "Balenciaga!" as her dying words on the season finale of FX television show American Horror Story: Coven.[37][38]

Film director Paul Thomas Anderson was inspired to make Phantom Thread when he became interested in the fashion industry after reading about designer Cristóbal Balenciaga.[39]

Balenciaga collaborated with The Simpsons to create a short film for Paris Fashion Week in 2021.


  1. ^ "Balenciaga". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). HarperCollins.
  2. ^ Menkes, Suzy (2006-02-27). "Miuccia Prada: 'The mistress of us all'". International Herald Tribune. Archived from the original on 11 March 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-11.
  3. ^ Snodgrass, Mary Ellen (March 17, 2015). World Clothing and Fashion: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Social Influence. New York: Routledge. pp. 54–55. ISBN 978-1317451679. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Charleston, Beth Duncuff (October 2004). "Cristobal Balenciaga (1895-1972)". Timeline of Art History. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Archived from the original on 27 January 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-11.
  5. ^ "Cristóbal Balenciaga". Victoria & Albert Museum. Archived from the original on 2007-11-23. Retrieved 2007-03-11.
  6. ^ Rowlands, Penelope (2005). A Dash of Daring: Carmel Snow and Her Life In Fashion, Art, and Letters. Atria. p. 286 and elsewhere. ISBN 0743480457.
  7. ^ Peter, Popham (March 6, 2011). "Fashion and Fascism: A Love Story". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2021-02-25. Retrieved 2021-10-08.
  8. ^ "5 Famous Fashion Designers Ties To The Nazis". The Fashion Spot. May 1, 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-05-09. Retrieved 2021-10-08.
  9. ^ Paul, Johnson (January 19, 2011). "Cut Against The Bias". This Recording. Archived from the original on 2011-01-28. Retrieved 2021-10-08.
  10. ^ Brown, Barbara Pascarell (2012). Pretty in pink: Jacqueline Kennedy and the politics of fashion. New York: UMI. p. 33. Retrieved October 12, 2021.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ Menkes, Suzy (2001-11-20). "Nicolas Ghesquiere, a Creative Young Spirit in the Master Class, Balenciaga: Reviving and Revering". International Herald Tribune. Archived from the original on 2007-01-29. Retrieved 2007-03-11.
  12. ^ Horyn, Cathy (2002-04-09). "Is Copying Really a Part of the Creative Process?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-05.
  13. ^ "Kidman and Urban: happy marriage or misalliance?". English 25 July 2006.
  14. ^ "Barco – Barco MiPIX and LED displays chosen for exclusive Kylie concert". Archived from the original on 2006-10-15.
  15. ^ "Nicolas Ghesquiere: Balenciaga's Lariat Bag Almost Never Got Made". 2011-08-15. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  16. ^ "Celebrity Dress". Retrieved 25 March 2011.
  17. ^ "Raquel Zimmerman in vintage Balenciaga". Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 25 March 2011.
  18. ^ Zarrella, Katherine (October 2010). "The Hot and the Haute". Retrieved 25 March 2011.
  19. ^ Zinko, Corolyne (1 November 2010). "Tatiana Sorokko's Extending the Runway". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 4 November 2010. Retrieved 1 November 2010.
  20. ^ "Look of the Day". InStyle. 27 July 2007. Archived from the original on 2012-03-11. Retrieved 24 March 2011.
  21. ^ a b "A Spanish Night for Balenciaga in San Francisco". Women's Wear Daily. 25 March 2011. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  22. ^ "Home Page". Cristóbal Balenciaga Museoa. Retrieved 2022-04-28.
  23. ^ "Nicolas Ghesquière to Leave Balenciaga". The New York Times. 5 November 2012. Retrieved 5 November 2012.
  24. ^ a b "Balenciaga RTW Fall 2014". WWD. 27 February 2014. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  25. ^ Lindsey Schickner. "Alexander Wang Will Helm Balenciaga And His Own Label". Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  26. ^ Socha, Miles (4 February 2014). "Balenciaga, Nicolas Ghesquière Trial Date Set". WWD. Retrieved 5 February 2014.
  28. ^ "Balenciaga Spring 2016 Ready-to-Wear Fashion Show". Vogue. 2 October 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-07.
  29. ^ "Vetements's Demna Gvasalia Is Balenciaga's New Artistic Director". 6 October 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-07.
  30. ^ Colección Balenciaga Pre-Fall 2021 19 April of 2021. Vanity Teen.
  31. ^ "Bieber for Balenciaga". Office Magazine. 2021-08-03. Retrieved 2021-08-09.
  32. ^ Yancey-Bragg, N'dea. "Fashion designer Balenciaga accused of cultural appropriation over $1,190 sweatpants". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2021-09-14.
  33. ^ "After Gucci, TAG Heuer, French fashion major Balenciaga will also accept crypto payments". MSN.
  34. ^ "Balenciaga Takes Crypto, the Rich's Charities".
  35. ^ "Balenciaga supports Ukraine at Paris Fashion Week". The National. 2022-03-07. Retrieved 2022-03-09.
  36. ^ "How the fashion industry is reacting to the crisis in Ukraine". Harper's BAZAAR. 2022-03-04. Retrieved 2022-03-10.
  37. ^ "American Horror Story: Coven: Myrtle Snow wasn't wearing Balenciaga". Entertainment Weekly. 3 February 2014.
  38. ^ Woerner, Meredith (30 January 2014). "American Horror Story had NO CLUE how to end this season". io9.
  39. ^ Sullivan, Kevin P. (November 2, 2017). "Paul Thomas Anderson opens up about Phantom Thread for the first time". Entertainment Weekly. Time. Retrieved November 3, 2017.

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