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The Master of Us All: Balenciaga, His Workrooms, His World

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  121 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
A sparkling life of the monumental fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga

One of the most innovative and admired figures in the history of haute couture, Cristóbal 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 jour
Paperback, 240 pages
Published February 11th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published February 5th 2013)
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(showing 1-30)
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Nov 22, 2015 rated it liked it
Cristóbal Balenciaga, genuine and humble from the very first moment of his career, an enigmatic artist, with a mysterious personality so the least you could expect from a book that has in its title, "His World", is a serious glimpse on his introvert character.

I wouldn't like a tell all, mostly because Balenciaga himself was a very private person, but a more thorough job from that aspect would have been very welcome.

More of a detailed career timeline and less a biographical documentation this bo
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A perfectly diverting little book for summer evenings. This is really Florette's story, and she is what gives it life. I am endlessly fascinated by the interwoven history of designers as fashion evolved. This story is packed with friendships, apprentices, and feuds.
Angie Fehl
May 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
"The Master Of Us All" was a title given to the Spanish clothing designer, Cristobal Balenciaga, by fellow clothing designer Christian Dior. Balenciaga came from humble roots -- his father a fisherman, his mother a seamstress / dressmaker -- but his curiosity and love of detail would prove to serve him well in his rise to fame years later. As a child, Balenciaga would tag along on his mother's trips to clients' homes for fittings appointments. He would pay close attention to his mother's techniq ...more
Jan 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I remember a family wedding in the early 60's and a woman on the groom's side wearing
the most beautiful dress this little girl had ever seen not in a movie. It was a gold brocade with a portrait collar and matching coat. My one "fashionable" aunt - in an other wise utilitarian family - said it was Balenciaga. And that memory is why I wanted to read this book. It was a mistaken notion, as I just couldn't 't care about rarified Paris fashion nor about their feuds and disagreements. Really little o
Catherine Byers
Balenciaga did not want publicity for himself, and he was good at protecting his privacy. So there is no Big Reveal in this book. But you will read about his steadfast vendeuse Florette and others on his staff. I enjoyed the descriptions of life in Paris before, during and after the Second World War. The writing is conversational, but not overly chatty. A good read.
Julia Tiedt
In terms of a historical fashion biography, it was an excellent book - but Balenciaga was such a private person that it did not offer much insight into his life - was more of a timeline of his career.
May 01, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel like I learned more about the women who worked and/or bought Balenciaga than I did the master. Some interesting vignettes, too much French with no translation and too few photographs.
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Bardzo mało o Balenciadze. Książka o jego otoczeniu i sytuacji mody w okresie, w którym on tworzył. Nic specjalnego, liczyłam na więcej informacji o samym projektancie i jego życiu.
Sep 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rose by: Gift from Cindy from Abby W
Informative, but not a page turner. But then again, Balenciaga's life wasn't inviting extra attention...

Gave a nice glimpse into the fashion world of that time without being suppositious.

Sep 01, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Immensely Readable, but left me hungry for more

Blume has written an immensely readable book (I finished in one sitting). Even while I enjoyed it, ultimately it left me with unanswered questions.

Not much is known about Cristobal Balenciaga's life. Few customers, buyers, or magazine editors met him. During his entire career he gave only one interview. There are very few known photos of him. John Fairchild while at the WWD Paris bureau, literally stalked Balenciaga like a paparazzo to get some stre
India Celeste
The only thing I didn't particularly like about the book is that it often deviated to biographies and info about people around Balenciaga versus being in depth about the man himself. The person who gave the most perspective about him was his long-time vendeuse, so much of the book was about her, her coworkers, and other designers. What I did enjoy was that the book somewhat mirrors who Balenciaga was in real life: someone mysterious that people only seemed to have glimpses of.

I wasn't born in h
Jun 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fashion is the one thing I am passionate about, not in your typical white girl sense but truly passionate about. On my 19th birthday, my sister was still in England and I was back in our homecountry and she asked me what I wanted for birthday. I said 'Just get me a book'. She is not a reader so I had to pick one... and boy am I glad it was this one. I only read it today (more than a year after I got it) because I wanted to pay attention to every detail. I know the book doesn't deal with Balencia ...more
Mar 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, non-fiction, 2013
Writing a biography of Cristobal Balenciaga must have been quite a challenge. Balenciaga was an intensely private man, who only gave one press interview in his entire life. He never made public appearances at his own fashion shows, and avoided the social whirl that surrounded his industry. So there is very little source material to work with, other than anecdotes from people who knew him, many of whom still respect his desire for privacy.

Because there is very little new that can be said about th
Aug 14, 2016 rated it liked it
An interesting biography. Blume didn't have a lot to go off seeing as how he was a terribly private person, but a great story, a sad story: Genius to Slogan, I'm afraid.
The center of the biography was Florette Chelot, his charismatic (and favorite) vendeuse, who shared with Blume many anecdotes about the hidden man. There were very few quotes from Balenciaga himself, but Florette said something all too beautiful in her later years, which I felt compelled to record in this review: "The older I g
I am definitely NOT a fashionista, I barely know any names, and when I watch the TV shows I am usually confused when they enthuse about a particular person, but I am willing to be educated. This was an interesting story that I think told me more about fashion in Paris in general from the period of the Depression through post WWII. I found some of the things about designers in general, fashion houses and how they used to work interesting, as it is a world that I have only seen in old 1930's movie ...more
Vince Osorio
The Master of Us All works much like a long-form documentary would- a central character interviewed is the anchor, accompanied with other talking heads populating the surroundings, with a rough story/timeline threading them all together.

As a biography, Master of Us All doesn't give as much insight as expected, but as a celebration of the man's life & work, it's lively & entertaining. Blume's writing style is workmanlike but she gets a lot of great quotes and stories out of Florette Chelo
May 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I was barely familiar with Balenciaga's clothes - I am on a history of fashion reading journey and glad I visited the land of this sculptor of couture's land. And - appreciate the finesse of his tailoring now with the great detail Mary Blume provides - plus her detailed research on all the workers involved in the making of this extremely expensive and unusual clothing (much not to my personal taste, but can now admire better the Dali-meets-Picasso sculptural qualities of his more extrem ...more
Feb 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book reveals Balenciaga's character through a portrait of his salon, which included an army of fierce vendeuses (saleswomen), eccentric clients, and competitors who would alternately rely on and undermine him. The small size of the book, and well-placed black-and-white photographs, add to the experience of being a fly on the wall at 10 Avenue George V. You can feel the intensity of his workroom and the precision in every stitch.
Apr 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this well-done biography about master couturier, Cristobal Balenciaga. I adore vintage fashion, so this is in my sweet spot, as they say. But my enjoyment stemmed from more than that. Balenciaga was a notoriously private man, so the author, Mary Blume, teased out the details of his life by exploring the world around him. As such, we are exposed to a variety of people who were in his orbit, as well as learning about the historical context of his work. Very well done.
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. I've always admired his designs -- there was a wonderful exhibit of his work in San Francisco a couple of years ago -- so it was a pleasure to get a glimpse into his life. My understanding is that he was a very private person, so the only drawback of the book was that I wanted more information and details. That said, I think the author did a great job of portraying his life with the limited amount of information she had.
₵oincidental   Ðandy
A slim but very informative (& revealing) little book about one of fashion's indisputable (& most mysterious) personalities: the reclusive Cristóbal Balenciaga. A true master, M. Balenciaga was obsessed with his métier & fueled forward by his relentless pursuit of perfection. A great book.
Jul 23, 2015 rated it liked it
It was an interesting read. There was not much on M.Balenciaga's life, but he was a private man. It was interesting to read about the clients and the veunduses (saleswomen) who ran the place. First time reading about a designer and I'm glad it was this genius "tradesman" that I read about.
Feb 05, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won this through Goodreads

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I learned a great deal about designing fashion and the history of it in the twentieth century. It is a book I would tell others to read
Hayley Dyer
Honestly I thought this book was pretty dry. My favorite chapter was about Florette and I wish that Mary Blume had written the entire book with the humor she afforded Florette.
Mar 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting and enjoyable peek into the heyday of the Parisian fashion world.
Eileen Ptacek
Mar 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great history of early 20th century fashion design houses. I wish more of the pictures were in color.
Victoria Plettner-saunders
Love the fashion history and the information about Paris fashion during WWII. I love learning some of the origins of today's haute couture and what differenciated designers. A gem of a book.
Alison McDonald
Sep 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
An interesting look into the fashion world of a person who shied from publicity. It mostly deals with tales from the people around him and still keeps a lot of the mystery of the designer about him.
Omar Abreu
Interesting view into the life and mind of Cristobal Balenciaga. Simple read, great for looking into the world of such a legendary and influential designer.
Oct 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book. Going to his museum in Spain on vacation to explore even more!
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Goodreads Librari...: please add this edition in polish 3 17 Jul 14, 2016 07:22AM  
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