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This book is new in my library and it exceeded my expectations in every way. It tells about Balenciaga's humble beginnings, his success story, design process, the suppliers he worked with, his famous clients and it includes plenty of great photos to highlight his style.
He was such a private man and a true gentleman who never revealed much about his private life. The book does tell about his dressmaking background which started with his mother when the family lived in Spain. Because of his mother’s influence, Balenciaga had great respect for women and he understood the lines, colours and designs that flatter the female figure. He didn’t like corsets and closures of Dior garments. He wanted women to be comfortable and stylish at the same time. The book leads us through his professional journey from San Sebastian to Paris highlighting the historical and political context of this period both in Spain and in France.
What this book really excels in is describing Balenciaga’s style, his inspirations and Spanish influences. There are plenty of images throughout the book that shows how the designer’s style evolved over the year. Yet he stayed true to his impeccable construction with engineering precision. He was one of those rare fashion designers who could make any garment from start to finish. He considered himself a tailor and a dressmaker and his pieces were constructed based on his solid tailoring training. He was incredibly meticulous in his designs and he paid great attention to detail. If he didn’t like the lines, he would pull the garment apart and start again.
He was also a shrewd businessman and he was procuring fabrics and notions based on the best price rather than loyalty. He had a great list of the best European suppliers, including Abraham, Agnona, Dormeuil, Chanel, Velours de Lyon and many many others. He was fortunate to open his business in Paris where he got access to the best textiles, buttons and trimmings and where the best embroidery artisans, such as Maison Lesage, were available. He kept accurate ledgers of his expenses which show how the fashion house grew over the years.
I was hungry to know how he designed and procured his fabrics, his creative process, and also price, advertising and publicity strategies he used to compete with other fashion houses at the time. The luxury fashion market is very difficult to enter and he was one of the designers who was able to dominate this market and seed other budding designers some of whom actually apprenticed with him. Hubert de Givenchy, André Courrèges, Emanuel Ungaro come to mind.
I will not spoil your read by revealing too much detail, just to say that the book is very interesting with plenty of details and quotes shared by those who worked with the designer or bought his clothes.