The V&A presents the first ever UK exhibition exploring the work of Cristóbal Balenciaga and his influence on modern fashion. The exhibition explores Balenciaga’s unique approach to his work and will showcase pieces by his protégés and contemporary designers.
The exhibition draws mostly on the V&A’s fashion holdings – the largest collection of Balenciaga in the UK and marks the centenary of the opening of Balenciaga’s first fashion house in San Sebastian and the 80th anniversary of the opening of his famous fashion house in Paris.
The exhibition concentrates on the latter part of Balenciaga’s career in the 1950s and 1960s, in this period, he dressed some of the most famous women of the time, but also introduced a number of revolutionary shapes including the tunic, the sack, ‘baby doll’ and shift dress.
Throughout the exhibition are 100 garments and 20 hats, many of which have never been on public display before. These are accompanied by archive sketches, patterns, photographs, fabric samples and catwalk footage.
To understand, why Balenciaga is so revered by other designers, it is worth watching the short films on couture-making processes. The extraordinary level of craftsmanship and innovation regarding cutting provide some insight into how Balenciaga used a series of methods that added body to the dress but were hidden from view. To uncover some of these methods, the V&A has used x-ray technology to take a forensic look at the hidden details inside Cristóbal Balenciaga’s garments. These images show structures invisible to the naked eye, including dress weights strategically placed to determine the exact hang of the skirt and boning in dress bodices.
Cristóbal Balenciaga’s garments were highly sought after by film stars and wealthy woman of the period, highlights of the exhibtion include ensembles made by Balenciaga for Hollywood actress Ava Gardner, dresses and hats belonging to socialite and 1960s fashion icon Gloria Guinness, and pieces worn by one of the world’s wealthiest women, Mona von Bismarck.
The exhibition is themed around three main sections: ‘Front of House’, including Balenciaga’s salons, behind the scenes in Balenciaga’s ‘Workrooms’ and ‘Balenciaga’s Legacy’.
The ‘Legacy’ section features the work of over 30 designers of the last 50 years including the work of his former apprentices André Courrèges and Emanuel Ungaro, and designers such as Phoebe Philo for Celine and J.W. Anderson.
Balenciaga’s attention to detail are reflected in the work of Hubert de Givenchy and Erdem. His pattern cutting and explorations of volume can be seen in the work of Molly Goddard and Demna Gvasalia, while his use of new materials is referenced in the work of former Balenciaga creative director Nicolas Ghesquière.
This fascinating exhibition will introduce Cristóbal Balenciaga to a wider audience, whilst Balenciaga is revered by fellow designers, he is little known to the wider public due to his aversion to publicity and celebrity. He preferred his work to speak for him and this exhibition provides plenty of evidence of his remarkable talent to combine high levels of craftsmanship and innovative design.
See Video Review here
Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion runs at the V&A
from 27 May 2017 – 18 February 2018.
Admission £12 (concessions available).
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
For more information , visit the V & A website here
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