Symposium Unites International Costume Scholars to Explore the Influence of Spain on the Work of Cristóbal Balenciaga

Balenciaga Rawlings Vogue

Cristóbal Balenciaga, Cocktail hat of ivory silk satin, 1953. Originally published in Vogue, October 15, 1953. Photo: John Rawlings

Symposium available to viewers worldwide via Internet broadcast.

San Francisco, CA — Four of the world’s leading costume scholars will present papers at a symposium organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco to explore the influence of Spanish art, culture and history on the career of haute couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga on Saturday, March 26, 2011. The symposium in the Koret Auditorium from 1–4 pm opens the exhibition Balenciaga and Spain at the de Young Museum, which features 120 garments and millinery from international institutions and private collections, many of which have not been publicly exhibited in decades. Hamish Bowles, European editor at large of Vogue, serves as guest curator and will moderate the symposium.

The Balenciaga symposium will be available for viewing via the Internet on for $9.95. Visit for more information.

A Balenciaga collection fashion show filmed in his Paris salon in 1961 by Tom Kubin will be shown during the symposium’s intermission. Each lecture will include a 30-minute illustrated talk focused on specific aspects of Balenciaga’s oeuvre from his early career in Spain through his transformative work in his Paris atelier. The presenters are:

Hamish Bowles — will present Balenciaga and Spain and examine the exhibition’s thesis and elucidate how Cristóbal Balenciaga’s nostalgia for his Spanish homeland inspired the garments and millinery in the exhibition’s six sections: Spanish art, dance, regional costume, bullfighting, the royal court and religious life and ceremony.

Bowles, a noted fashion journalist, is the European editor at large for the American edition of Vogue. A graduate of the Saint Martin's School of Art and Design, Bowles worked as a fashion editor and style director for Harpers and Queen from 1984 until 1992. He joined Vogue in 1992. Bowles is author and co-author of several books including Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, People; Philip Treacy: “When I Met Isabella”; and Carolina Herrera: Portrait of a Fashion Icon. He also served as curator for the landmark exhibition Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years.

Miren Arzalluz — will present Cristóbal Balenciaga: the Making of the Master (1895–1936) and describe the early portion of Balenciaga’s career focusing on his life and work in Spain prior to his departure for Paris in 1937 as viewed through the lens of Spain’s turbulent political environment.

Arzalluz studied history at the University of Deusto (Spain) and comparative politics at the London School of Economics before specializing in the history of dress and fashion at the Courtauld Institute of Art. After working in various British museums, such as the V&A and Kensington Palace, she became curator at the Balenciaga Foundation in 2007. Her research covers the history of fashionable dress on the 20th century with particular emphasis on the life and work of Balenciaga. She has recently published the book Cristóbal Balenciaga: La Forja del Maestro (1895–1936), which focuses on the life and professional development of Balenciaga before establishing his haute couture house in Paris, and she is currently working on the permanent exhibition and catalogue of the new Balenciaga Museum project in Guetaria, the couturier´s hometown.

Lourdes Font — will present Austere Splendor: Balenciaga’s Legacy of Spanish Court Costume, a survey of costume at the Spanish court from the late 15th century to the late 18th century as seen in royal and aristocratic portraits, making connections with surviving garments and accessories and tracing the influence of this legacy on Balenciaga's designs.

Font is associate professor in the department of History of Art and in the M.A. program for Fashion and Textile Studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Among her recent publications are Fashion and Visual Art. Font is the co-editor of and contributor to the Grove Dictionary of Art Online. She has also contributed articles and essays to West 86: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture, to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum’s exhibition catalogue Fashion in Colors, and to Fashion Theory.

Pamela Golbin — will present Balenciaga’s Designs and Development (1937–1968) and explore the depth of Balenciaga’s oeuvre through the collections produced at his Paris atelier during those three decades.

Chief curator of the Musée de la Mode et du Textile at the Louvre in Paris, Golbin is an internationally renowned figure in the fashion industry with extensive historical knowledge of cultural and design issues. She is a leading expert in contemporary fashion and has organized landmark exhibitions worldwide. Ms. Golbin has organized more than fifteen exhibitions, including major retrospectives on iconic fashions legends such as Balenciaga and Valentino. Her latest exhibition was an award-winning retrospective of the work of Madeleine Vionnet.

About the Exhibition

Balenciaga and Spain, an exhibition curated by Hamish Bowles, European editor at large of Vogue, featuring nearly 120 haute couture garments, hats, and headdresses designed by Cristóbal Balenciaga (1895–1972). The exhibition illustrates Balenciaga’s expansive creative vision, which incorporated references to Spanish art, bullfighting, dance, regional costume, and the pageantry of the royal court and religious ceremonies. Cecil Beaton hailed him as “Fashion’s Picasso,” and Balenciaga’s impeccable tailoring, innovative fabric choices, and technical mastery transformed the way the world’s most stylish women dressed. The exhibition closes on July 4, 2011.

Exhibition Organization

Balenciaga and Spain is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Major patrons of the exhibition are the San Francisco Auxiliary of the Fine Arts Museums and Christine Suppes. The lead sponsors are Neiman Marcus, Diane B. Wilsey, and Marissa Mayer and Zachary Bogue.