(24 May 2017) LEADIN:
The first UK exhibition exploring the work of Spanish fashion designer Cristobal Balenciaga opens in London on May 27.
The exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) primarily focuses the designer’s most creative years in Paris in the 1950s and 1960s – but also examines his Basque roots and his legacy on contemporary designers.
A major exhibition at the UK’s top fashion and design museum is exploring the creations of Cristobal Balenciaga.
Crowds are here for an early viewing of the exhibition of a designer credited for introducing revolutionary shapes to fashion, like the tunic, the sack, the baby doll dress and the shift dress.
However, despite his importance in fashion history – Cristobal Balenciaga is not a well-recognised name to those outside the fashion bubble.
Shy and wary of the press, Balenciaga has arguably been surpassed in the public-consciousness by his great rival Christian Dior.
Cassie Davies-Strodder, curator of Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion at the V&A is hoping revive his fame.
She says: “So I think Balenciaga is one of the most important and influential fashion designers of the 20th Century but I think his name has fallen out of fashion history a bit, he’s not a household name like Christian Dior for example and I think that’s because he was a very private person, he was very press shy, he wasn’t really interested in promoting himself but we really wanted to reassert his importance and not only in the 50s and 60s but his continuing and profound influence on fashion right up to the present day.”
Cristobal Balenciaga was born in the north Spanish province of Gipuzkoa in 1895. As a boy he accompanied his mother, a seamstress, to fittings with her clients.
This inspired him to start a tailor’s apprenticeship at the age of 12.
His mastery at tailoring quickly gained him the patronage of rich clients and he produced clothing for Spain’s royal family.
When the Civil War came he left his native Spain and moved to Paris, where in the 1950s and 60s he would go on to produce his most famous creations.
Davies-Strodder says: “So I think the Balenciaga look is really distilled in the late 1960s and I think its the very architectural shape, it’s minimalistic, it’s pared back he often does very clever things with pattern cutting and it’s a dress that frames rather than restricts the body.”
A section of the exhibition is dedicated to exploring the designer’s legacy and influence on those who followed in his footsteps.
It displays the dresses and fashion of contemporary designers who have built on the foundations Balenciaga laid in the 50s and 60s.
Molly Goddard is a London-based fashion designer, whose black baby doll dress is on display at the Balenciaga exhibition.
Goddard cites the designer as a major influence on her work : “Yeah, I think Balenciaga is one of the most important figures in fashion. I think his bravery and his use of volume at a time when not many other people were doing anything like it makes him one of the most important figures, yeah.”
For her the intrigue of how he created his dresses is what is so fascinating about his work.
“Like I don’t know how some of the things are made and that to me is really interesting, they either look very natural and the fabric has just created this incredible shape and the cutting has or you know there’s some amazing structure within it that’s creating that and I think that intrigue is what is always exciting for me,” she says.
X-ray artist Nick Veasey has made life-size X-ray prints, looking beneath the fabric at the intricate underpinnings of some of the collection’s key dresses.
He used his mobile X-ray studio to create these never-before-seen images of Balenciaga’s creations.
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