Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion V&A London

Since the renowned Spanish couturier created his first fashion collection, it was Balenciaga’s time-honoured tradition to create fine quality designs that inspired, endured and were relished by his customers.  This year, two museums have hosted exhibitions celebrating the designer – Musee Bourdelle in Paris, www.eyestylist.com/balenciaga – and currently at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London is Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion. Top image: The Balloon hem silk taffeta evening dress Cristobal Balenciaga Paris 1954 Victoria and Albert Museum London

Cristobal Balenciaga at work, 1968 Paris France Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos

Diana Vreeland, the iconic editor of American Vogue in the 1960’s and early 70’s proclaimed: “For twenty years, Balenciaga was the prophet of nearly every major change in silhouette.”  Christian Dior pronounced: “Haute couture is like an orchestra whose conductor is Balenciaga.”

Wild silk evening dress (detail), Cristobal Balenciaga with embroidery by Lesage, 1960-2 Paris France Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The designs are characterised by their sculptural quality, deft manipulation of textiles, and dynamic use of colours and textures. Inspiration derived from many sources: his own Spanish heritage; influences from 19th century dress; and the Japanese kimono.

Spiral silk hat Cristobal Balenciaga (Eisa label) Spain 1962 Victoria & Albert Museum

The V&A exhibition showcases over one hundred garments and hats by Balenciaga, his pupils, and contemporary designers inspired by his innovation. Jacqueline Kennedy; Pauline de Rothschild; Gloria Guinness; Greta Garbo; and Mona von Bismarck; were among his notable clients in the 1950’s and 60’s. To view his beautifully tailored suits and exquisite evening dresses is to witness a master class in couture art. Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion is sponsored by American Express at the V&A, and continues until 18th February 2018. www.vam.ac.uk JG