The House of Balenciaga was founded by Cristobal Balenciaga as early as 1918. The first boutique was based out of Spain, and then expanded in to Madrid and Barcelona. The designs were worn by the highest level of society in Spain, and by the Spanish royal family. The fashion house was forced out of the country, and into Paris, because of the ensuing Spanish Civil War.
Many people might not know this, but Balenciaga’s designs were so popular, that people would risk their safety to come to Paris during the Second World War, just to see the designs, and to get their hands on them. Balenciaga also influenced many of the greats that we know about today. Christian Dior called Balenciaga “The Master Of Us All”. Indeed, he was a great master, and so much so, that his design protégées are names that themselves are considered masters then, and now. They are names such as Oscar de la Renta, Ungaro, Givenchy, and Courreges. These names in of themselves are prized around the world, but early on in their design careers, these masters were students under Balenciaga.
Balenciaga created looks that are now classics, and that are still part of our fashion vocabulary. He created the infamous Square Coat, which is a coat designed with shortened sleeves in the same cut as the coat. His coats were a bit wide in the shoulders, and full in the waist, instead of cinched. He also created the Cocoon Coat, which was popular during the 1950’s and into the 1960s. He is responsible for necklines that pulled away from the neck, to create a look of elongating the neck like that of a swan. This look was also very popular during the 1950s. But the thing that Balenciaga created that is still being used in today’s fashion is the “bubble skirt.” A “bubble skirt” is a skirt or a dress that features fabric that billows out at the bottom, like there is air being blown into it like a bubble. The Balenciaga design was very delicate, but in time, others imitated the design, and especially in the 1980s, the bubble skirt became quite over the top. Today’s bubble skirt is significantly understated compared to the 1980s version, but it does billow out a bit around the hemline, to create a look of air in the fabric.
Balenciaga the designer closed his fashion house in 1968, and then died in 1972. The house was later on revived in 1986. The rights to the fashion house were bought from the Balenciaga estate, and the fashion house was back in business under the direction of licensed designers. There have been several since then. The brand is now known not only for its dresses, but for its handbags, and for its shoes. Many relevant Hollywood stars wear the label, and the gowns are certainly worn on the red carpets at the best and brightest award shows.