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Cristobal BALENCIAGA MUSEUM, Getaria


Cristobal Balenciaga

Cristobal Balenciaga, Foto: From Cristobal Balenciaga Museum

The Cristobal Balenciaga Museum was inaugurated on the 7th of June of 2011 in the village of Getaria, (province of Gipuzkoa).

One of a kind in the world, the venue has become the first large museum of its type dedicated exclusively to a fashion designer.

Developed under the tutelage of the Cristobal Balenciaga Fundazioa Foundation, the Museum has accepted the mission of promoting, disseminating and making the most of the significance, relevance, importance and prominence of the brilliant designer himself and of his work in the world of artistic creation in general and ore specifically, of fashion and haut couture

“A good fashion designer should be an architect of forms,painter of colors, musician of harmony and philosopher of measurement.” Christobal Balenciaga.

“With fabrics, we do what we can. Balenciaga does what he wants.” Christian Dior.

Cristobal Balenciaga Museum:


Foto: From Cristobal Balenciaga Museum

Three large halls, four floors, six rooms and a careful selection of 90 unequalled items for the exhibited collection, make up, in general, the first museum designed and dedicated to one of the greatest geniuses in universal fashion: Cristobal Balenciaga.

The Museum, in addition to exhibiting more than 1,200 items which, under the sponsorship of the Foundation on a rotational basis, have been received through transfers, donations, institutional or private funds, seeks to become an international center, involved in education, dissemination and investigation within the area of the fashion couturier. Structure of the Museum and collection

The Cristobal Balenciaga Foundation has an unique collection by the brilliant fashion couturier. Its size-with a total of 1,200 items-continues to grow.

Nuptial dress. Foto: Henning Høholt

Nuptial dress. Foto: Henning Høholt

Its formal and chronological diversity include from the earliest to the most recent models by the genius from Guipozkoa.  All have been preserved to make a complete, coherent sample and to become an international reference. Another exceptional value of the collection is that of the origin of the items.

Famous personalities of the 20th century, such as Mona Von Bismarck, Bunny Mellon, Patricia López Wilshaw, Barbara Hutton, Princess Rethy, Grace Kelly and Madame Bricard have all worn some of the models that the Foundation now holds
. Moreover, other donations have also come from famous names, such as the president of the Foundation, Hubert de Givenchy, and Queen Fabiola of Belgium.

foto: Henning Høholt

foto: Henning Høholt

Collection Highlights • In 2000, the Founder-President of the Foundation, Hubert de Givenchy, donated the first part of his personal Balenciaga dress collection to the organization.  Today, this donation contains a total of 109 dresses. • On the 27th of March 2003, a contract with HRH Queen Fabiola of Belgium was signed, for the donation of her wedding dress.  This dress was designed by Cristobal Balenciaga and is the flag ship of the Foundation’s current collection. • On the 9th of May 2003, the Royal House of Monaco donated four suits that Cristobal Balenciaga designed for Grace Kelly.

• On the 11th of November 2004, the first in a series of donation contracts was signed with Mrs. Bunny Mellon, one of Balenciaga´s most important clients and wife of Paul Mellon, an important American philanthropist. The total donation has now reached 29 items. The permanent exhibition, composed of a careful selection of 90 items including suits and complements, is distributed in the Museum in six interlinked area, separated depending on topic criteria. Their names proclaim their content: Beginnings, Day, Cocktail,

Night, Bridal and Essential Balenciaga. The four intermediate rooms-Day, Cocktail, Night and Bridal-appear in the Museum laid out in the same order in which the garments were traditionally exhibited on the haut couture cat walks. In this regard, the exhibition seeks to show Cristobal Balenciaga’s best work.

“Beginnings” This first area provides visitors with the key to learning about the early genius of Balenciaga, his first steps into the fashion world, his training process-which was absolutely decisive in the later creative explosion of the man from Gipuzkoa-and the first creations that were already beginning to mark the lines followed in the brilliant professional career of the creative fashion designer from Getaria. In this area, the initial contacts with the corseted fashion at the end of the 19th century will start to make sense, along with the later liberation in women’s fashion after the First World War.

This was the start of Balenciaga as a creative genius.

“Day” Balenciaga’s training begins to make sense in the form of creations. As an example, his dominion of sartorial techniques allowed him ‘to invent’ innovative silhouettes supplied with flowing and curved lines.

Clearly, this clearly collided with the straight, corseted model endorsed by Christian Dior at the end of the ’40s. In fact in those years, in 1947, he continued with experimenting with shapes and designs presenting his barrel line that ignored the figure thanks to a curved shape on the back. New proposals were the semi-sculpted line (1951), the tunic (1955) and the sack dress of 1957; these proposals completely revolutionized the fashion panorama of the time.  Acclamations were widespread from all agents involved… And, Balenciaga was achieving, step by step, one of his greatest contributions to the history of female clothing: the introduction of a new silhouette for the woman.

Balenciaga kåpe

Balenciaga kåpe, foto: Tomas Bagackas


“Cocktail” Balenciaga entered new fields according to the necessities of the new wealthy society following the Second World War. The so-called cocktail models are a reflection of this era. The technique and fantasy of these pieces were his trade mark. Fittings and embroideries were used with profusion around items with simple silhouettes, fitted bodies and very wide skirts. But Balenciaga did not stop there. Draped, bubbled skirts or more audacious silhouettes were also plentiful in models that appeared to have been extracted from an imagination of another era. The baby-doll (1958) is something for our memories, an extraordinary example of the abstraction of the body and the artistic autonomy reached by the creativity of the designer from Gipuzkoa by the mid 20th century


For Balenciaga, evenings were always a source of inspiration in which he could reflect his creative genius and technical precision in a precise way. He transformed fashions such as historicism, Orientalism, and traditional dress … into sources of inspiration that sketched impressive designs that dazzled in the moonlight.   In addition to these reminiscences, the perfect use of the fabrics, the decorations and a wide range of color all contributed to turning evening ware of the Balenciaga woman into authentic designer jewel


The items present in the Cristobal Balenciaga Museum make both the formal and aesthetic evolution of the work of the designer from Gipuzkoa clear. Decade by decade, the inspiration and resources used differ in a more than evident manner.  Thus, his wedding dress models from the ’40s are reminiscent of 19th century designs. Meanwhile, the ’50s offer openly traditional nuptial creations, in keeping with that decade, with fitted body and full voluminous skirt. And the already referred to evolution led him ‘to build’ dresses in the ’60s, highlighted by a great simplification in construction and decoration. Examples of this are ‘master works’ produced in 1967 and 1968, which give the entire role to the woman, in this case the bride, to the detriment of decorations that could subtract a certain degree of importance.

“Essential Balenciaga” The Cristobal Balenciaga Museum exhibition area concludes with a room that seeks to condense the creative genius of Cristobal Balenciaga into two aspects: the first maintains a strictly technical point of view; the second responds to the influences that determined the design of his items throughout the whole of his life.

Balenciaga essentials. Foto: Henning Høholt

Balenciaga essentials. Foto: Henning Høholt

In this area, the models are always exhibited individually, next to screens that present computer graphics of the dresses with a special attention to their pattern and assembling. With this, the Museum curators seek to exalt the designers exquisite technique as well as his unquestionable and extraordinary technical innovations which he always made the most of and that he left, at the same time, as his legacy

HONORARY PRESIDENCY OF THE FOUNDATION: Their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain, personally or those of the Royal Family who are so designated. •PRESIDENT OF THE HONORARY COMMITTEE OF THE FOUNDATION: Her Majesty Queen Fabiola of Belgium. •FOUNDING PRESIDENT OF THE FOUNDATION for life: Monsieur Hubert de Givenchy.

CRISTOBAL BALENCIAGA, INGENIOUS CREATOR Perfectionist, extraordinarily technical, creative, innovative….These and other adjectives may undoubtedly be used to describe one of the best and most influential 20th century couturiers.  Cristobal Balenciaga Eizaguirre (born in the city of Getaria, Gipuzkoa, Spain on January 21, 1895 – died in Jávea, Alicante, Spain on March 23, 1972) was well ahead of his times.  He was a genius that revolutionized the concept of dressing and the female silhouette.

For him, perfection was an obligation and his extraordinary technical skill facilitated the task
.  As a result of his innovative personality, he sought greater simplicity and purity of forms

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. Wherever he went, Cristobal Balenciaga sparked passions. Perhaps, the words of colleagues and models best reflect the essence of the designer from Guipuzko. Christian Dior, another “great master” stated that “he was a master for all of us.”

Hubert de Givenchy said; “He is the architect of haut couture.” Another catwalk reference was Coco Channel, who defined him as the “only authentic couturier,” as, contrary to his peers, “he was able to design, cut, set and sew a dress from beginning to end.” Throughout his life, his precursor spirit was well established.  Thus, in 1917, when he was only 22 years old, he opened his first house in Donostia-San Sebastian, followed by houses in Madrid and Barcelona.

It wasn’t long before Spanish royalty and aristocrats heard about his talent and sought out his designs. The Spanish Civil War forced him to close his business and immigrate to Paris, the fashion Mecca. In the French capital, specifically on George V Avenue, he inaugurated his first workshop, which was the springboard to the gates of Europe….that was in 1937. From that point onward, his talent spread throughout Europe where it was more than obvious as of 1945.

His innovative style gained momentum during those convulsive years.    It was his brand.  He began receiving calls and visits from some of the greatest figures of the continental scene, including Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo.

Likewise, his designs were sought for the among other illustrious nobles, as well as creations for high-society Americans. Undoubtedly, he made the one most important contribution to the history of fashion: the introduction of a new silhouette for women.   He broke away from the established forms to create fluid lines and surprising volumes.   Certainly, they were lines, models and designs that defined an era, such as the barrel line (1947), the semi-fitted look of 1951, the balloon skirts of 1953, the 1955 tunic dress, the sack dress of 1957 and his 1958 baby-doll dress.  This was the final touch; his ascension to the highest of haut couture was granted to an iconoclast who was well ahead of his times.

His colleagues, the fashion industry and the general public were living proof through their praise. Even today, half a century later, after that rupture with the past, the catwalks continue to show his proposals His incomparable work and the way did it all have determined the characteristics that have also guided this Foundation-and even the Museum-when it comes to launching the various initiatives in his honor.  These qualities can be summarized as: Excellence: In his creations, perfection was his maxim.  In this perpetual search for excellence, Balenciaga from a tender age, focused on the work of the most reputed designers in the work, which, together with his unyielding capacity to work and surpass his own expectations, pushed him to create models of insuperable quality


Creativity: Balenciaga was a genius with sensitivity and a profound creative capacity to build the mainstays of his professional activity.  The designer knew how to optimize his natural virtues by seeking inspiration in artistic and sartorial expressions of past eras or far away cultures. Rigor: Rigor and precision constitute the essential characteristics of his work and the personality of Cristobal Balenciaga.  The designer always shied away from triviality and flimsiness (a standard resource for other designers to catch the public eye) and was painstakingly careful when it came to the construction of his creations.  That is why he dominated sewing techniques like no one else, which provided him with a powerful tool when it came to conceiving surprising models. Innovation: not only did Balenciaga deserve the title of “The Master” due to the perfection of his creations and the way he dominated the technique, but also for his foresight and ability to be ahead of the times and innovate, which not only improved what everyone already knew, but in many cases, broke away from the establishment.

He revolutionized the fashion world with the presentation of a new and daring silhouette for women, while at the same time he developed new fabrics which allowed him to undertake some of his riskiest and most conceptual creations.


Elegance: The driving force behind Cristobal Balenciaga was always his deep sense of elegance, not only in dress, but also in his personal life.  His concept of elegance was closely linked to simplicity, this being understood as purity, which resulted in the elimination of superfluous embellishment. The simple lines and pure forms of his creations constitute the basis for the timelessness of his creations. Honesty: Balenciaga was renowned for his honesty, not only in his relations with others but also with himself.  His creations were a faithful reflection and result of his hard work and personal efforts as he never took shortcuts in his quest for success. The collections he presented each season spoke for themselves, with no need for forced interpretations or elaborate staging.  Balenciaga appeared as he was, despite the fact that some always saw veiled interested in his discretion. Cristobal Balenciaga Eizaguirre was all of this and much more. He blazed the trail and had a number of internationally prestigious disciples and followers, including Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta, Courrèges, Ungaro Architectural project: the buildings Located in the Aldamar Park of Getaria, between the streets of Sahatsaga and the slope of Lormendi, the Museum consists of two areas: the historical Aldamar Palace and the newly built annex building.

The Aldamar Palace, a 19th century monumental building, now used for temporary exhibitions and the Cristobal Balenciaga Museum documentation center, was built as the summer residence of the Marquises of Casa Torres.

However, it is of particular relevance as it was also one of the first places where young Cristobal Balenciaga Eizagirre started in the exciting world of designing and fashion. The new Cristobal Balenciaga Museum building, partially attached the Aldamar Palace on its west facade has three halls, each of which is dedicated to one or several inter-connected missions.

The first of these, which is also the most significant for the visitor, is the central area that serves as the star location.  It has six connected exhibition halls, which are differentiated by the topics of each exhibited item. In addition, the visitor welcome area, store, cafeteria and multi-use hall are also located in this area.

A second area houses the educational environment, the main role of which is to host workshops and operate as a training center with international reach.

Lastly, the administrative area is dedicated to the restoration workshop and the internal administration of the Museum itself. In total, the four floors of these areas occupy a built surface of 9,323.03 square meters.

Obviously, and as happens in any area used as a museum, the architecture is of particular importance.  In the case of the Cristobal Balenciaga Museum, in 2008, the Cristobal Balenciaga Foundation took charge of the finalization of the works following the plans of architects AV62, who have, as architects, also been responsible for the construction of the Sant Boi de Llobregat Central Library, the Rupestre Tito Bustillo Museum of Art in Ribadesella, the Archaeological Museum of Cerdanyola and the Library of Sant Pol de Mar, among others.

Auditorium, Balenciaga Museum. Foto: Tomas Bagackas

Auditorium, Balenciaga Museum. Foto: Tomas Bagackas

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