Cristobal Balenciaga’s Cat Couture
To put it one way, Cristobal Balenciaga’s first model was rather feline: “At age six, Balenciaga cut his first coat,” Vogue‘s Hamish Bowles informed an intimate group at the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute in New York last night. “For his cat.” Not your typical first fitting, but a pivotal one nonetheless. “The cat kept moving and he got frustrated,” Bowles said of Balenciaga and his erstwhile muse. “Which is, perhaps, why he always thought about moveability and comfort in his designs later on.” The audience taking note at last night’s bash—a who’s who of CFDA designers, from Francisco Costa to Tory Burch and Marcus Wainwright—were gathered to take in Balenciaga: Spanish Master, an exhibit of the late Basque designer’s work curated by Bowles, himself an avid Balenciaga collector.
Oscar de la Renta, the evening’s co-host and the institute’s chairman, had a personal take on the show. As a young apprentice to the famously private designer, de la Renta recalled with a laugh, “When people ask how it was working in his atelier, I always tell them, ‘I was picking pins off the floor.’ I was terrified of him. He worked with only a small group of people, and he never gave an interview. He was very protective; I would say even suspicious.” If Balenciaga were alive today—his 116th birthday is this Friday, January 21—he most likely would have been appalled by the rash of celebrity-driven lines and Twitter devotees, but it seems even the master had a weak spot. “Balenciaga wasn’t a great sketcher,” de la Renta divulged. “But he was great with his hands.”
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