In recent years, the Balenciaga fashion brand has been rocked by various scandals.
Chief amongst them was the release of the label’s holiday ad campaign in November 2022, which featured children holding teddy bears in bondage harnesses and costumes.
The Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism (BDSM) accessories were also controversially featured on the runway at a Balenciaga Paris Fashion Week show.
This resulted in widespread backlash, causing the hashtag #cancelBalenciaga to trend across social media platforms at the time.
But the prominent fashion house once represented a precise attention to detail as it persisted through adversity and sought to inject beauty into a troubled and fragile world.
This high level of craftsmanship, obsession with every stage of the fashion production process, and commitment to be an industry leader, is what the label’s founder, Cristobal Balenciaga, has become renowned for.
The Spanish designer died at the age of 77 from a heart attack in 1972, but his incredible career at the world renowned fashion house has been stylishly documented in “Cristobal Balenciaga” a new series from Disney+.
Released on the streaming service on January 19, the biographical drama television series was created by Lourdes Iglesia.
It stars the award-winning Alberto San Juan in the lead role, with the likes of Adam Quintero, from Submergence and Sky High, as well as Gemma Elizabeth Whelan from Game of Thrones fame, also featuring.
“Cristobal Balenciaga” gives viewers a glimpse into how the iconic designer became one of the most ingenious and influential figures in fashion.
Balenciaga was even referred to by fellow esteemed designer Chanel as “a couturier in the truest sense of the word,” adding that “the others are simply fashion designers,” when they are compared to him.
The six-part series also provides glimpses into how the designer navigated the impact of the Spanish Civil War and then the Nazi occupation of France during the late 1930s to the early to mid 1940s, as he endeavoured to make the world a more beautiful place - one garment at a time.
This was a challenging ordeal as during the 30 year period - from the 1930s to the 1960s - which is detailed in the biopic, the designer also had to contend with the changing tastes in the high fashion market in the post-war years.
And Balenciaga did so while competing with some of the biggest fashion houses, including the likes of Chanel, Dior and Givenchy, in order to set his label as one of the benchmarks of haute couture in Paris’s sophisticated fashion empire.
Apart from the world history, fierce competitors, doubters and detractors, as well as the ever-changing landscapes, “Cristobal Balenciaga” manages to put fashion and the designer's exquisite creations in the spotlight.
Through the use of sensuous lighting and smart camerawork, the series showcases beautiful period details and astonishing couture.
The biography of the fashion great also seeks to memorialise and provide a fitting tribute to an incredibly talented craftsman, who has gone on to inspire fashion designers and enthusiasts across the globe.
“Cristobal Balenciaga” kicks off around the time when the designer presented his first haute couture collection in Paris in 1937.
This comes after he was forced to leave behind a successful career in his workshops in Madrid and San Sebastián as he dressed the Spanish elite and aristocracy.
But he quickly discovered that what was trendy in Spain, was not in style in Paris, which was evolving as the world’s leading haute couture hotspot.
The biopic drama series then unfolds as Balenciaga’s love for fashion, obsession with detail and competitive nature defines his style offerings, which ultimately made his namesake label synonymous with some of the biggest in the world.
The series concludes in the 60s, where Balenciaga was dressing royalty and his designs were at their most innovative.
During this period, the series depicts how he made jackets from a single piece of fabric. He was also able to create sculptural avante garde pieces that draw praise, even now on modern-day catwalks.
But his struggles continue as Balenciaga is being forced to keep up with the times and become more than a custom couture designer.
He then goes on yet another fashion mission, this time to appeal to larger and more modern fashion consumers.
“Cristobal Balenciaga” is a fitting tribute to a legendary designer who created moments of stylish joy during tumultuous times.
Despite his world being draped in beauty and luxury, his relentless pursuit of style perfection saw him step out of the spotlight as he constantly disregarded personal fame.
Instead, he was relentless in creating a legacy in which his creations will go on to live forever, and to leave a brand which can for generations, stand on the foundation of his dedication to fashion.
∎ “Cristobal Balenciaga” is currently streaming on Disney+.