The great haute-couture house of Cristobal Balenciaga will close next month. A spokesman for the salon, which is on Avenue George V, finally confirmed the closing.
It was hard to understand what the woman said on the telephone for she sobbed as she spoke, breaking down into tears when she tried to talk. Private orders from the last collection, shown in February, will be filled. And then—probably in June—the doors of the house that 73-year-old Balenciaga has made the citadel of the haute couture will shut—maybe forever.
Only two weeks ago one of the designer’s employees issued a stinging denial of the closing rumors, which had been circulating both here and in New York for some time.
But it is believed that Balenciaga has perhaps nothing left to achieve professionally and is closing the house because he is bored.
His prestige with private clients has never faltered, although in the last few years American buyers have occasionally felt that his clothes looked too familiar, “too old” compared with the younger, more commercial creations that other Paris houses showed, and “too traditional.”
“We are desolated,” Jean-Claude de Givenchy said today when he heard the news, “we cannot express our distress.”
Mr. Givenchy was speaking on behalf of himself and his brother Hubert De Givenchy, the couturier. Hubert is a Balenciaga protégé and disciple.
Before his death, Christian Dior called Balenciaga “our master.” And Coco Chanel, the doyenne of Paris couturiers says:
“The others are just draftsman or copyists, or else they are inspired people or even geniuses, but Balenciaga alone is a couturier. He is the only one who can design, cut, put together, and sew a suit or a gown entirely alone.”
New York fashion leaders are equally upset.
“When history is written,” said Nancy White, editor of Harper’s Bazaar magazine, “his contribution has to be recognized as one of the greatest in fashion. We shall miss him.”
Jessica Daves, former editor of Vogue, attributes part of his success to what she calls “his Spanish way of thinking.”
“He has the best attitude towards women.” Miss Daves said. “He believes in elegance and ladies. I don’t think he ever did a vulgar thing. He doesn’t believe in sudden changes.”
Andrew Goodman, president of Bergdorf Goodman, said:
“It’s a tragic loss to the fashion world—the end of an era. He was a strong voice for elegance. He never compromised for a minute.”
– from THE NEW YORK TIMES, MAY 23, 1968