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CRISTOBAL BALENCIAGA (1895–1972) Balenciaga was born in the small fishing village of Guetaria in the Basque region of Spain on January 21, 1895. From his early years, he spent many hours by his mother’s side as she worked as a seamstress. In his teens, the most prominent woman of his town, the Marquesa de Casa Torres, became his patron and client, sending him to Madrid for formal training in tailoring and proudly wearing the results. Balenciaga found early success in his native country. He opened branches of his boutique Eisa in Madrid, Barcelona, and the fashionable seaside resort of San Sebastián. His designs were favored by the Spanish royal family and fashionable members of the aristocracy. When the Spanish Civil War forced the closure of his boutiques, Balenciaga moved his operation to Paris, the acknowledged fashion capital of the world. There the talented designer joined the ranks of Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Mainbocher, among other established couturiers. In August 1937, Balenciaga staged his first runway show at his Avenue George V atelier, showing a collection that was heavily influenced by the Spanish Renaissance.