"The fashion world lives off his ideas." So began John B. Fairchild's piece on Cristóbal Balenciaga on July 9, 1958. Half a century later, that statement rings no less true. In silhouettes alone, Balenciaga's contributions to fashion were countless—the cocoon coat, the balloon jacket, the then-revolutionary waistless sack dress and chemise and so on. Balenciaga was a master of cut and construction; his designs, utterly controlled and precise. "His almost impossible sense of perfection has made cutters cry out of frustration," wrote WWD in 1962. "It is an old story that he will introduce changes hours before a collection, tearing apart a sleeve or undoing seams while his tailors stand around in horrified silence." Horrified, perhaps. But enlightened as well. Among Balenciaga's protégés: Hubert de Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta, Emanuel Ungaro and André Courrèges. Today, the label has seen a major reinvention under the creative reign of Nicolas Ghesquière, who's infused the Balenciaga name with a slick edginess and cool vibe.