The most famous Basque gay: Cristobal Balenciaga

Born in the small fishermen town of Getaria in January 21st 1895, he started sewing at 13 years old, and when he was 20 he already have kings and high society amongst his clients. 

When searching information for this post, I found an very well written report by a top gay present day writer called Mr Boris Izaguirre. He wrote about him in Vanity Fair in Spanish and I believe his description is worthy to be taken here:

"Balenciaga lived openly as a gay in Paris at the end of the 30s. In fact, the biggest love in his life, who was Wladzio d'Attainville a French-Polish aristocrat, helped him to find the money to open a haute couture shop there. If Balenciaga had the rigours and actitude from the aristocrat although he was the son of a fisherman and a dressmaker, Wladzio was a true aristocrat whose wisdom impressed the couturier. They both lived together since their time in San Sebastian, where they share an appartment with the mother of Balenciaga. One of the dressmakers, Elisa Erquiaga, explained it in an interview: “He was very handsome and well educated and we all knew, but nobody spoke about it in the studio”.

Protected by its own discretion, Wladzio and Cristobal lived a privileged normality: they collected art and went together to social events, incredibly respected by a modern aesthete partner, shaping tendencies and discovering new talents. They incarnate, on their way, the most open of a sexuality obligued to be hidden. The handsome Polish fit Balenciaga, who was also handsome but he became bigger when together. Both were the embrio of nowadays gay couple, interested on keeping their standard of living and not interfering their professional career. They never separate one from the other. The Polish was the only one to keep calm the demons of the master: his insecurity and that obsesive search of the perfection in a shoulder, a leave or the way to hide the hips of Colette, one of his most famous clients. Those were things that really tortured Balenciaga and D'Attainville knew how to calm him down.

In 1948 Wladzio died in Madrid and Balenciaga never recovered. He did not want also to recover his love life. In his fashion show that year, all his dresses were black. “He impossed the mourning for his boyfriend to all the elegant women of his age”, explains Miren Arzallus in his book “La forja del Maestro”. It is more than likely that due to the mourning for D'Attainvile the black colour triumphed as a chic colour. As Hamish Bowles wrote in 2006, “the two biggest wounds in Balenciaga's life were the triumph of Dior in 1947 and the death of D'Attainville next year”.

Amongst the biggest gay desingers in the world on the half of 20th century they were Balenciaga and Dior in Paris, afterwards came Yves Saint Laurent and Jean Paul Gaultier, and in Italy, Giorgio Armani and Giani Versace (according to the Lesbian & Gay History Enciclopaedia).

Dior considered him “primus inter pares”, and Chanel recognized that Balenciaga himself could make a perfect dress from the beginning to the end with his own hands, whilst the others were only “designers”.

Amalia Descalzo, consultant in Balenciaga Museum and teacher of fashion in IESE Business School, wrote in the Spanish newspaper “ABC” that: “he set the basis of all that came afterwards. He did what Picasso did in the contemporary art”.

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