Balenciaga is a luxury fashion house founded in Spain by Cristóbal Balenciaga, a designer born in the Basque Country, Spain. The brand is now owned by the French multinational company Kering. Cristóbal Balenciaga Eizaguirre was a Spanish Basque fashion designer and the founder of the Balenciaga fashion house. Balenciaga found early success in his native country. He opened branches of his boutique Eisa in Madrid, Barcelona, and the fashionable seaside resort of San Sebastián. His designs were favored by the Spanish royal family and fashionable members of the aristocracy. When the Spanish Civil War forced the closure of his boutiques, Balenciaga moved his operation to Paris, the acknowledged fashion capital of the world. There the talented designer joined the ranks of Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Mainbocher, among other established couturiers. In August 1937, Balenciaga staged his first runway show at his Avenue George V atelier, showing a collection that was heavily influenced by the Spanish Renaissance. Balenciaga interpreted numerous historical styles throughout his career. His “Infanta” gown was inspired by the costumes of the young Spanish princesses from portraits by Diego Velázquez, while the short, heavily ornamented “jacket of light” traditionally worn by toreadors in the bullfighting ring inspired much of his evening wear. The most eye-catching designer of this period was Balenciaga because of his structural designs, which had never before been seen in the fashion world. He was a master of tailoring, and he was able to translate his illustrations from paper to real life. His advanced tailoring skills gave him an advantage over designers all over the world, making him a major target for customers. He taught fashion design classes, inspiring other designers including Oscar de la Renta, André Courrèges, Emanuel Ungaro, Mila Schön and Hubert de Givenchy. His most famous clients were Mona von Bismarck, Grace Kelly, Ava Gardner, Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy.
Lisa Fonssagrives, born Lisa Birgitta Bernstone was a Swedish fashion model widely credited with having been the first supermodel. An icon and leading fashion model in the 1940’s and 50’s, it is difficult to imagine the history of fashion photography without thinking of Lisa Fonssgarives-Penn.“Fonssagrives’s preternaturally elegant, patrician air and skill with movement and understanding of her body made her a natural in front of the camera, and soon image-makers from Horst to Man Ray to Richard Avedon were lining up to shoot her.” A regular in the pages of Vogue, Fonssagrives’s most important collaboration in both art and life was her relationship with fashion photographer Irving Penn, whom she met on set in 1947 and would eventually marry.