From the Wall Street Journal review of a new book about Balenciaga, the reclusive couturier whose sculptural sophitication defined the extravagance of post-war fashion. “It is from Dior (who called Balenciaga ‘The Master of Us All’ ) that Mary Blume, a longtime Paris reporter for the International Herald Tribune, takes the title of her new book, “The Master of Us All: Balenciaga, His Workrooms, His World.”
“Most books on Balenciaga are coffee-table tomes with text by curators or scholars who don’t disturb the zone of reserve that surrounded the master. This book, small and intimate, contains a voice from the inside, that of Florette Chelot, Balenciaga’s top saleswoman and the first person he hired to work in his Paris salon, back in 1936.
“Monsieur likes a bit of belly,” was the soothing refrain in the house.”
“In 1965, Chelot sold the fledgling reporter her first Balenciaga, a wool suit. When Chelot was in her 90s, Ms. Blume taped a series of conversations about life in the fashion house at 10 Avenue George V: its intricate hierarchy of workers; its clients with posh surnames (Guinness, Rothschild, Mellon); and, of course, its discreet deity. The book is a two-part invention, with Chelot’s autobiographical facts and anecdotes punctuating and expanding Ms. Blume’s researched narrative of Balenciaga’s life. The older voice is worldly, accepting of human frailty and folly; the younger voice more skeptical and searching.”–Wall Street Journal