Cristóbal Balenciaga (21 January 1895 – 23 March 1972) was the Spanish fashion designer who founded the fashion house Balenciaga | Source: Pinterest

The Haute Couture King: Cristobal Balenciaga’s Most Iconic Pieces

Lauded by Christian Dior as “The master of us all,” the mentor of Hubert de Givenchy, Emanuel Ungaro and Oscar de la Renta. And a clientele list that stretches back to the Queen Fabiola of Belgium, Mona von Bismarck, Jackie Kennedy and more recently to Cardi B and Kanye West.

The man that started it all is Cristobal Balenciaga – one of the most influential couturiers of the 20th century. The Spanish designer quite literally shaped haute couture fashion from 1937 to 1968 defining the Balenciaga brand we all know today.

Since 2015, and under the avant-garde current creative direction of Demna Gvasalia, the French fashion house continues to design some of the most unimaginable pieces in the fashion world. The Georgian fashion designer even brought about the brand return to haute couture fashion this year for the first time since 1968.

Balenciaga created an iconic legacy that continues to revolutionise haute couture fashion, streetwear and the social media hype to this day. Here’s a look back at some of the most iconic designs by the house of Balenciaga.

Queen Fabiola of Belgium Wedding Dress

One of the most talked-about dresses of the 1960s, Balenciaga created the dress for the granddaughter of The Marchioness of Casa Torres as a thank you for her support in his early career. The white satin wedding gown features a fitted bodice, full-length sleeves and a bell-shaped ankle-length skirt. The rounded neck and dropped waist are trimmed in white ermine and a long train flows from the shoulders of the dress. Years after the ceremony, the famous wedding gown was donated to the Cristobal Balenciaga Foundation where it has been featured in several exhibitions.

Mona von Bismarck Gowns

The first American to be named “The Best Dressed Woman in the World,” by the likes of Coco Chanel, Mona von Bismarck was a huge fan of Cristobal Balenciaga. So much so, she once ordered 150 pieces in a single season and reportedly stayed at home for three days to mourn when the designer closed his atelier in 1968. Her Balenciaga collection included a silk faille ‘hostess gown,’ a violet lace dress and a full-length coat appliquéd with pink organza petals and green silk taffeta leaves.

The Sack Dress

During the 1950s, Balenciaga used the silhouette of a ‘sack-handbag’ as the groundwork for one of his most prominent designs. Previous Christian Dior popular ‘new look’ designs were transformed by broader shoulders and a lower waistline, revolutionising the womenswear silhouette of the time. This new silhouette became the iconic sack dress, which radically turned away from the hourglass look.

The Baby Doll Dress

The natural progression from the sack dress, introduced in 1957, was the baby doll dress. The bell-shaped creation made with lace hung loosely on the shoulders creating a triangular silhouette. The flatteringly feminine design became a timeless silhouette with generational fashion icons such as Twiggy and Courtney Love wearing the style. Current Balenciaga Creative Director Demna Gvasalia has kept the style alive, reintroducing the signature look on the runway.

Cardi B Campaign

Showcasing Balenciaga’s true revolution under the new creative direction of Demna Gvasalia, Cardi B became the face of Balenciaga’s July 2020 campaign. It’s the first time Gvasalia has used a celebrity in a campaign since taking the helm in 2015. Selected by Gvasalia himself, Cardi B’s black evening gown with an asymmetric neckline, built-in gloves and shoes that look like socks was topped with a sharp and shiny bob. The campaign then featured on a billboard on the Louvre in Paris countries including China, South Korea and Singapore.

Want to read about iconic fashion designers? ave a look at Valentino Garavani: The Designer Who Defined the Golden Era of Hollywood.

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