Born in 1895 in Guetaria, in the Spanish Basque Country, Cristobal Balenciaga devoted his whole life to exploring the techniques of sewing, and taking them to new levels by the simplification of a cut that has become legendary.
At the age of 23, he opened his first fashion house in San Sebastian, in the Basque Country, and then two others, in Madrid and Barcelona. He regularly went to Paris, to buy styles from major fashion designers such as Elsa Schiaparelli and Madeleine Vionnet, whose construction he studied. He dissected the designs, in search of their secrets. This autodidact learned the assembling methods of the famous names of Parisian couture, which is how he developed the foundation of his design technique.
Fleeing the civil war in Spain, he moved to Paris in 1937. He was one of the few couturiers to have supervised three houses simultaneously, but it was undeniably in Paris, at 10 avenue George V, that his creations became worthy of his crowning as the "King of Parisian couture".
From his first collections, his signature styles could be identified by the perfection of the cut and a fascination for deep black. He was inspired by the culture of his country: bullfighter capes, nurse uniforms, a range of surprising colors, mantillas in black lace or draped in tangy tones. He was a master at technique which allowed him to use a wide variety of materials in his designs.
In February 1968, after presenting his last collection, he retired to Spain and closed his Parisian house. Balenciaga liked to say: "A good couturier must be an: architect for plans, sculptor for the shape-form, painter for color, musician for harmony and philosopher for measurement".