Cristóbal Balenciaga is surely turning in his grave. His name, once associated with the highest quality and virtuosity in the art of tailoring, is now synonymous with the pretentiousness and detachment from reality of the creators of the so-called high fashion. Tattered jeans and sneakers, sold by the brand for thousands of euros, seem like a grim joke – especially when compared to the designs created by the Spanish master. And although the most famous of them, such as the rose dress or the Infant dress inspired by the paintings of Diego Velázquez, are undoubtedly a decoration of the production devoted to him, it does not seem that they would move anyone.
Aitor Arregi, Jon Garaño and Jose Mari Goenaga take on the perspective of the title character. The basis of the script is an interview that Balenciaga (Alberto San Juan) gave to journalist Prudence Glynn (Gemma Whelan) associated with “The Time” shortly before his death. We learn about the history of one of the most famous fashion houses: from the first successes in pre-war Paris to the preparation of the wedding dress of the future Queen of Belgium, Fabiola de Mora y Aragon (Belén Cuesta), as well as cooperation with Air France. The events taking place over the next decades, until May 1968, form a story about a genius – understood and appreciated, and yet still lonely and looking for recognition.
“Cristóbal Balenciaga” is a TV series of a man whose obsessive perfectionism forces him to pay attention to every, even the smallest, detail. In his eyes, the seams could always be straighter and the pins inserted at a better angle. This control goes far beyond the sewing process – the designer forces fabric producers to work on innovative materials and challenges fashion magazines, which he believes are responsible for the creation of fakes. Alberto San Juan, who plays the title role, conveys the complexity of his character well. Under the mask of a fashion dictator, determined to realize his vision at all costs, he hides a boy persecuted by his peers. Their taunts, still ringing in his ears, make the protagonist question his praise and poison subsequent acquaintances.
Unfortunately, the other characters are just background for him. The scriptwriters try to tell the story of Balenciaga through his relationships with other famous designers: his friend Coco Chanel (Anouk Grinberg), Christian Dior (Patrice Thibaud),who is considered his most serious rival, and the talented Hubert de Givenchy (Adrien Dewitte). However, they seem quite superficial and come down to unanimous admiration for the craftsmanship of the Spanish master. We also learn little about his closest ones – his friends, who are fleeing from the regime of General Franco, and his life partners: Ramón (Adam Quintero) and, last but not least , Władzio (Thomas Coumans). This character will surely steal the hearts of viewers.
Moreover, the context of the political situation in Spain was also neglected – and it seems crucial in understanding the protagonist’s motivation. However, the creators managed to include social changes and their impact on the fashion industry in his biography. The series includes many topics that are still relevant today.
The role of the media in creating trends, the growing market of fakes and the decreasing quality of materials (the addition of polyester in silk) are just some of them. In turn, we could call Audrey Hepburn , dreaming of wearing Balenciaga dresses on the set of “Sabrina“, an it girl of that time , whose today’s equivalent would probably be Kim Kardashian.
“Cristóbal Balenciaga” will probably attract people interested in design and fashion. Unfortunately, they are probably the only ones who will survive until the last episode. It’s a pity that an intriguing hero, known for his uncompromising nature and willingness to go against the grain, was forced into the framework of such a conventional production. A figure who went down in history as a visionary who set the tone for the industry for decades deserves haute couture.
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