By Diane Pernet
Dive into the captivating world of “Cristóbal Balenciaga,” the upcoming Spanish bio-drama series that provides a nuanced look into the life of the iconic Spanish couturier. Set to premiere on Disney+ this January 19, the show unfolds against the backdrop of Balenciaga’s debut Haute Couture collection in 1937 Paris. It intricately traces his journey from dressing the Spanish elite in Madrid and San Sebastian to navigating the challenges of the global fashion hub.
Each episode leaves you hanging on the edge, skillfully filmed with precision, tension, and emotion. Alberto San Juan commands the screen as the imposing Cristóbal Balenciaga. During his early career in Spain, he reshaped designs from London and Paris for his high-society clientele. The series reveals Balenciaga’s departure from Spain during the Spanish Civil War to establish his own house in Paris in 1937. His designs, influenced by Spanish roots, showcased ecclesiastical severe lines, a focus on construction over decoration, cocoon shapes, and pure lines in sack dresses. He played with waist placement, creating higher fronts and lower backs.
Guided by an obsessive need for control, Balenciaga defined his style, earning respect from luminaries like Coco Chanel, Dior, and Givenchy. His clientele included Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly, and the Duchess of Windsor. The series delves into Balenciaga’s aversion to publicity, contrasting sharply with Chanel and Dior’s love for it. Balenciaga’s fashion shows, held at 10 Avenue George V, lasted up to two hours in complete silence. He directed models of different ages and shapes, instructing them not to smile or make eye contact with the audience.
The series, divided into six episodes, unveils the emotional and gripping facets of Balenciaga’s challenges in gaining acceptance in Parisian Haute Couture. It highlights his strength to challenge the system, ultimately turning the odds in his favor. Uncovered relationships, like his intriguing connection with Hubert Givenchy, add depth to the narrative.
Episodes 1 to 4 provide a glimpse into pivotal moments. From the challenging beginnings in Paris to facing a hostile atmosphere during the Occupation, Balenciaga’s journey unfolds. The series introduces a compelling rivalry with Christian Dior, loss, challenges with copies of his designs, and Balenciaga’s reluctance to embrace ready-to-wear.
The stellar performances, directing, cinematography, and costumes, elevate the series. Episode 4, depicting Balenciaga’s personal loss, stands out as a poignant moment akin to a scene in “Last Tango in Paris.”
Alberto San Juan, supported by an international cast, brings key 20th-century figures to life. Technical excellence shines through with Alberto Iglesias’ composition, Bina Daigeler’s costume design, Javier Agirre Erauso’s cinematography, Mikel Serrano’s production design, and Karmele Soler’s makeup artistry.
Produced by Xavier Berzosa through Moriarti Produkzioak and Irusoin production companies, the series unfolds the rich history of these production houses, renowned for their success in international festivals, including multiple Goya awards and Oscar nominations.