Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion
The V&A are about to launch yet another show stopper of an exhibition.
A retrospective of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s work and continuing influence on the fashion world.
“Haute Couture is like an orchestra whose conductor is Balenciaga. We other couturiers are the musicians and we follow the direction he gives.”
I snuck in for a little sneak peak.
Keeping cool in London’s new found summer weather.
Striped cotton dress
Pom-pom basket // Embroidered shoes
The V&A has always been and always will be one of my favourite places.
It just feels like its very own world.
No matter how many times I visit I always find some new corner, some new treasure.
I’m convinced the old museum hides things away and lets you discover them whenever it sees fit.
Perhaps it keeps her (for she surely must be a her) amused.
The new exhibition is hidden away behind a velvet rope, nestled within the fashion hall.
The show features over 100 garments and 20 hats, many of which have never been on public display before. Pulled from the V&A’s fashion holdings – the largest collection of Balenciaga in the UK – combined with sketches, swatches, patterns, photographs and even x-rays of the more elaborate dresses.
Spanish costume was a recurring influence on Balenciaga.
As early 20th-century Spain became urbanised, anthropologists and photographers rushed to record traditional customs before they died out. Balenciaga owned Isabel de Palencia’s anthology of regional costumes and would have seen the photos of his Basque contemporary José Ortiz-Echagüe. This evening gown made for his friend Francine Weisweiller shows a debt to Valencian dress.
Designs like this evening dress and cape from 1961 show how striking Balenciaga’s work remained during his long career. Bold colours, abstract architectural shapes and the clever manipulation of fabrics such as this stiff silk gazar are typical of Balenciaga. Their originality demonstrates why he had such a lasting impact on fashion.
The exquisite hand-painted silk of this dress recalls Chinese wallpaper. It shows the exceptional skills of the craftsmen who worked for the couturiers of the 50s.
Just look at that embroidery.
And the teeny, tiny waists!
A tailor’s tools.
This is an example of one of Balenciaga’s genius convertible garments.
A skirt and a cape in one, just depending how you tie it.
Guests are encouraged to try one on, and you don’t have to ask me twice!
Balenciaga’s signature balloon hem.
In the centre you can see an x-ray of the dress, revealing its corseting and construction.
Upstairs you’ll find a floor dedicated to ‘Balenciaga’s Legacy’.
The Balenciaga brand still references its founder today, yet his influence spreads far wider. The ‘Legacy’ section features the work of over 30 designers of the last 50 years tracing the influence of this most revered figure in fashion right up to the present day.
Cassie Davies-Strodder, V&A exhibition curator, said: “Cristóbal Balenciaga was one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century. Revered by his contemporaries, including Coco Chanel and Hubert de Givenchy, his exquisite craftsmanship, pioneering use of fabric and innovative cutting set the tone for the modernity of the late 20th century fashion. ”
It truly is the most incredible show, a must for anyone with an interest in the history of fashion – or indeed young designers in search of inspiration. Balenciaga’s visions truly are evergreen.
Having poured over the designs, sketches and life story of Balenciaga, we set off in search of breakfast.
Making the smallest of detours along the way, to visit a few of the Masters.
I will argue that the V&A’s courtyard is one of the best outdoor spaces this side of London.
Completely cut off from the hustle and bustle outside, it’s an oasis of calm.
The café serves simple staples and good coffee.
In London’s most glamorous cafeteria dining room!
We opted instead to make the most of the weather and took our haul out to the courtyard.
Taking crumbly, freshly baked croissants, a few berries and some frothy coffee out under the welcome shade of a swaying tree.
Where I indulged in my horrible (but wonderful!) habit.
Dunking the ends of my croissant into my cappuccino.
Try it sometime, I guarantee you’ll be hooked!
Also well worth a go with chocolate croissants.
But let’s be honest, there’s very little that’s not improved by chocolate.
The exhibition Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion runs from 27 May 2017 – 18 February 2018.
Admission £12 (concessions available). V&A Members go free. Advance booking is advised – do so here.