Balenciaga and Spain

By Hamish Bowles

“[Balenciaga] remained forever a Spaniard. ... His inspiration came from the bullrings, the flamenco dancers, the fishermen in their boots and loose blouses, the glories of the church and the cool of the cloisters and monasteries. He took their colors, their cuts, then festooned them to his own taste.” — Diana Vreeland

This unprecedented volume considers the profound and enduring impact of Spain’s history, art, and culture on one of the greatest designers of the 20th century, the legendary Cristóbal Balenciaga. Hailed as “fashion’s Picasso” by Cecil Beaton, Balenciaga created a revolutionary oeuvre that transformed the way women dressed. From the opening of his Paris fashion house in 1937 until his retirement in 1968, his visionary, ever-evolving designs and impeccable tailoring seduced generations of the most fashionable women in the world, including Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain, the Duchess of Windsor, Gloria Guinness, Pauline de Rothschild, Mona Bismarck, Princess Grace of Monaco, Doris Duke, and Diana Vreeland.

Published on the occasion of a major exhibition at the de Young, this book traces the deep influence of the Spanish masters—from Zurbarán, Velázquez, and Goya to Picasso and Miró—on the protean Balenciaga’s designs. It also investigates the legacy of his native Spain’s religious dress and ceremony, its lavish royal court, the tradition of flamenco dance, the drama of the bullfight, and the distinctive costumes of the country’s diverse regions. Featuring never-before-published photographs by renowned artists such as Richard Avedon and Irving Penn as well as remarkable documentary images from the archives of the house of Balenciaga, this illuminating and lavishly illustrated volume is a must-have for art and fashion connoisseurs.


Hamish Bowles is the European editor at large for Vogue and a respected authority on the worlds of design and couture. His books include Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years; Carolina Herrera: Portrait of a Fashion Icon; Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, People; Yves Saint Laurent Style; and The World in Vogue: People, Parties, Places.

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