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Old Is New

    Balenciaga, 1952
    Photo Credit: My book, Couture by Caroline Rennolds Milbank

    Cristobal Balenciaga was born in 1895 in Spain’s Basque country – that very cool region just over the French border where the Gipsy Kings hail. Balenciaga immigrated to Paris in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War and opened a shop on avenue George V where he sold very clean and refined tailored suits and day dresses.

    Balenciaga sketch, 1939
    Photo Credit: My book, Couture by Caroline Rennolds Milbank

     By the early 50’s, he completely transformed the silhouette by broadening the shoulders and removing the waist. Tunics, cocoon coats, balloon skirts and Empire dresses were sculpted with heavier fabrics, like duchess satin, with a lot of body and stiffness.

    Balenciaga, 1951
    Photo Credit: My book, Couture by Caroline Rennolds Milbank
     Balenciaga passed in 1972 and the label was rather dormant for quite some time thereafter. In the mid-eighties and early nineties, two different designers tried to revive the Balenciaga name, but failed. When young designer, Nicolas Ghesquiere took over in 1997, people started talking about Balenciaga again and in 2001 when Gucci group assumed ownership, the label was back on the map.

    Balenciaga - Spring 2007 magazine ad

    I went absolutely crazy for Ghesquiere’s Spring 2007 collection for Balenciaga. I saved some pictures in a giant file that I so cleverly call, “stuff I like.” I pulled them out and scanned them to share. If you look closely, you can still see the holes from being tacked to my bulletin board!

    Spring 2007 magazine ad

    Spring 2007 from Collezioni magazine

    I used to work with some very innovative Italian fabric companies and in 2005, I ordered some metallic fabric (Cotton/Nylon/Steel) from one of my favorite mills in Italy, Caverni Gramigni. I made a corset-like dress with nailhead detail --- imagine how ahead of the curve I felt when I saw the metal-like fabric two years later in Balenciaga’s Spring 2007 collection. I’m certainly not comparing myself to Ghesquiere, I am neither that delusional nor arrogant!
    2005- My dress, modeled by Sylvia Williams in '08

    This season, Ghesquiere brought us his usual mix of uber cool, body-conscious, geometric pieces mixed with super skinny pants. He introduced some knitwear this time through fabulous color block sweaters that somehow manage to maintain a dimensional shape. Incredible.

    Balenciaga - Fall 2010 Collection
    Photo Credits: Firstview