72_Book: The Balenciaga Enigma (2023)

February 9, 2024

María Fernández-Miranda (Gijón, Spain – 1975)

“Give me an imperfect body and I will make it perfect.”

The story of Cristóbal Balenciaga is absolutely fascinating. When you delve into his life, you realise that geniuses are simply born to do great things, and nothing can stop them!

This is the first time I’ve read a book and watched a series on the same topic simultaneously. It was a super interesting experience, and you know what? I got more hooked on the series than the book. Both have discrepancies, so now I have to do more research to figure out which one has the most accurate information. But, of course, it won’t be easy because Balenciaga was quite reclusive and rarely appeared in public, which makes finding details about his life challenging.

What I loved most about the book was understanding those key moments in Balenciaga’s life, like when his father passed away, how he learned to sew from his mother, his innate talent for sewing from a young age, the people who inspired him, his move to Paris, his friendship with Coco Chanel, and how he became part of that epic trio with Chanel and Dior in haute couture! Also, his loves and losses, and how he decided to retire from the fashion world.

The series is brilliant because it gives you a deeper insight into who Balenciaga was, what drove him, and how he saw things. Seeing how he tackled fashion in times of war, how he dealt with his sexuality in secret, his obsession with details like sleeves, and his perfectionism! I think that’s where his magic lay, but also his dilemma because that extreme control isolated him.

One topic that got me thinking is about copyright in creation. Balenciaga closed his Maison because he couldn’t conceive of a product bearing his name if he hadn’t created it. He said they were his creations and no one else could claim them. I agree, but in fashion, don’t you need many hands besides the designer to create something?

Balenciaga was a true genius and artist, always striving for quality and exclusivity. Fame and money were never his driving force. I don’t think he could survive in today’s era, and he might be horrified to see what his brand has become. Although his garments remain expensive, I think they’ve lost that special touch he so ardently sought.

Quotes that resonate with me:

  • “Being Basque means having the option of being both Spanish and French at the same time, but more than anything, it means having the desire to be oneself.”
  • “A woman doesn’t need to be beautiful to wear my dresses: the dress will do it for her.”
  • “Gabrielle Chanel said she wanted to be copied; Cristóbal Balenciaga did everything possible to prevent being copied.”
  • “A couturier must be an architect of form, a painter for colour, a musician for harmony, and a philosopher for measurement.”
  • “No one imagines how tough and exhausting this profession is, despite all the luxury and glamour. c´est la vie d´un chien!”
  • “It’s not about success, but about prestige.”
  • “Sewing is like the sea: always different and always the same.”
  • “Nothing is as mysterious as simplicity.” – Carmen Snow
  • “We do with fabrics what we can. Cristóbal Balenciaga does what he wants.” – Dior

Thank you for reading.

Wishing you a fantastic day! 😘

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