Balenciaga, the life of Getaria’s genius

Cristóbal Balenciaga
Cristóbal Balenciaga

Christian Dior called him "the master of us all", Hubert de Givenchy referred to him as "the architect of Haute Couture" and Coco Chanel called him "the only true couturier". Discover the life of this genius.

Cristóbal Balenciaga Eizaguirre was born in Getaria on January 21, 1895, into a working family. His father, a fisherman, died when Balenciaga was 11 years old. His mother, a figure of reference for Balenciaga, was a seamstress and worked for the family of the Marquises of Casa-Torres.

From a very young age he was in contact, therefore, with his mother's trade and the elegance and good taste of the Marquise, who helped to encourage his talent and became one of his first clients. In 1907 he was already registered in the city of San Sebastian where he began to learn the tailor's trade, working in various establishments with connections to Parisian fashion. At that time, the city was experiencing a flourishing moment in terms of tertiary economic activity, driven by the seasonal presence of the court in summer and the tourist phenomenon on the Basque Coast.

Retrato de Cristóbal Balenciaga
Portrait of Cristóbal Balenciaga

His first company, at the age of 22

At the age of 22, Cristóbal Balenciaga starts his first business, registering in the industrial registration book, under the heading of Dressmaker, and with the tax rate corresponding to the highest category, as C.Balenciaga, at Vergara Street nº 2. Within a year he modifies this registration in order to bring in new partners, the Lizaso sisters, in a limited company for a period of six years, creating Balenciaga y Cía and maintaining the same business address.

After this time, in 1924, the company was dissolved and in its place, it was registered as Cristóbal Balenciaga, moving its operations to Avenida 2. In this year, 71 workers (68 women and 3 men) were already working in the business. In March 1927 he creates Martina Robes et Manteaux at 10 Oquendo Street, 1 floor (Martina was his mother's name), as a second brand in a diversification strategy, which in October he transfers to a new name EISA Costura (again a name related to his mother's surname, Eizaguirre).

The first company, Cristóbal Balenciaga, remained open uninterruptedly until 1937, when he moved to Paris. The second, EISA Costura, diversifies geographically to Madrid (1933) and Barcelona (1935) under the name of EISA BE and remains in San Sebastian, at Avenida nº 2.

Vestido de Balanciaga

"A couturier must be

an architect of form, a painter

for color, a musician for harmony

harmony and philosopher for


Consecration in Paris

But it was undoubtedly his Parisian period that established him as one of the most influential designers in history. Pushed by the Spanish Civil War, Balenciaga moved to Paris and set up his salons at No. 10 Avenue George V. This decision not only gave him access to the most important fabric suppliers and the greatest specialists in Haute Couture, but also put him in contact with a cosmopolitan clientele of great social, economic and cultural relevance and in the spotlight of the international media.

He has been successful since the presentation of his first collection in 1937. His creations, based on comfort, purity of lines, the reinterpretation of Spanish tradition and the development of innovative volumes, will mark the fashion of the central decades of the twentieth century, until 1968, when Haute Couture begins to lose weight in favor of ready-to-wear, when Balenciaga decides to retire.

His precision, technical skills and perfectionism earned him the admiration of his colleagues and contemporaries such as Christian Dior who called him "the master of us all", Hubert de Givenchy who referred to him as "the architect of Haute Couture" or Coco Chanel, who described him as "the only true couturier".

But it is his innovative capacity, in subtle and constant evolution, his knowledge of fabrics, his sense of proportion and measurement, and his vision and interpretation of the female body that have consecrated him as one of the most influential designers of all time.

Museo Balenciaga, Getaria
Balenciaga Museum, Getaria

Cristobal Balenciaga Museum

Aldamar Park, 6   20808 Getaria-Gipuzkoa

You can't lose:

Iñigo Aristegui junto a una de sus obras en el Kursaal

Iñigo Aristegui, hugs to gift

 “Inspiration is the sum of many elements, knowledge and studies”, says this creative artist from San Sebastian, whose large format work, “Los abrazos”, can be seen next to the María Cristina Hotel.

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