The de Young Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park launched a glorious exhibition of the renowned Spanish fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga. The organizers held a press preview on Friday morning (the exhibition opened to the public on Saturday), where I was pretty excited to interview Hamish Bowles, editor at large for Vogue and curator of the exhibition, and who owned his first couture piece — Balenciaga of course — when he was 11. I wanted to know what type of woman Balenciaga preferred to dress, and I was thrilled to learn that, according to Mr. Bowles, he preferred mature, confident women over debutants.
“He preferred dressing women of a certain age who had found their own identity and were sure of their style and had presence,” Bowles told me. “Those were the kind of women who led fashion from the 30s to the 50s, really until the youthquake in the 60s. Fashion was not coming from the young.”
Balenciaga also liked to dress women with a healthy caloric intake.
“His fitters used to say ‘Mssr. Balencia likes a little plumpness in the belly,'” Bowles said. “A lot of his dressmaking techniques are designed to flatter the kind of body that a more mature woman might have.”
If that’s not reason enough for Balenciaga to be your all time fave designer, how about the fact that he’s often called the best fashion designer who ever lived? He wasn’t one to let others do the laborious parts — he was an actual master of his craft. He became a tailor’s apprentice at 13 to help support the family after his father died, and he dressed a queen when he was just 25. I took a boatload of photos for you below, but to truly appreciate the amazingness of Balenciaga’s work, get thee to the de Young ASAP!