The Master of Us All

Balenciaga, His Workrooms, His World

By Mary Blume
(Farrar Straus Giroux, Paperback, 9780374534387, 228pp.)

Publication Date: February 11, 2014

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A sparkling life of the monumental fashion designer Cristobal Balenciaga

One of the most innovative and admired figures in the history of haute couture, Cristobal Balenciaga was, said Christian Dior, "the master of us all."

Despite his extraordinary impact, Balenciaga was a man hidden from view. He saw to it that little was known about him, to the point that some French journalists wondered if he existed at all. Even his most devoted clients--Marlene Dietrich, Barbara Hutton, a clutch of Rothschilds--never met him.

But one woman knew Balenciaga very well indeed. The first person he hired when he opened his Paris house was Florette Chelot, who became his top vendeuse. She witnessed the spectacular success of his first collection, and they worked closely for more than thirty years, until 1968, when Balenciaga abruptly closed his house without telling any of his staff. Youth-oriented fashion was taking over, Paris was in upheaval, and the elder statesman wanted no part of it.

In "The Master of Us All," Mary Blume tells the remarkable story of the man and his world. Intimate and revealing, this is an unprecedented portrait of a designer whose vision transformed an industry but whose story has never been told until now.

About the Author
Mary Blume is a columnist at the "International Herald Tribune" and author of "Cote d'Azur: Inventing the French Riviera." Born, raised, and educated in New York City, she lives in Paris, France.
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