What does 2 Chainz and Molly Goddard have in common? An appreciation for all things Balenciaga. From music to fashion there is a deep respect and admiration for one of the most influential and important designers of the century, “the designer’s designer”, Cristobal Balenciaga.
I recently went to the “Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion” exhibition at Victoria & Albert Museum, showcasing over hundred couture pieces created by the mastermind himself. The exhibition also displayed his influence on fashion, from his protégées to contemporary fashion designers.
Cristobal Balenciaga was born in Getaria, Gipuzoka (a Basque province) in Spain on January 21 1985. His mother was a seamstress and he learned the trade by spending time with her whilst she worked. He became a tailor apprentice at the age of 12 and was sent to Madrid by his patron where he started his formal training as a tailor. Balenciaga is celebrated as one of the very few designers who who not only designed but used his hands to cut and sew. Referred to as “the master of us all” by Christian Dior, and the ‘King of Fashion’ his talent is treasured still today. His skills gave me an edge over other designers, making him popular with the ‘it crowd’ of his time. He was famous for his structural designs and reshaping the women’s silhouette in the 50s (to the point many dresses in the 50s were dilutions of his designs).
Balenciaga built his career first in Spain, by opening a boutique in Madrid and then the fashionable seaside resort of San Sebastian. His designs were favoured by the Spanish elite, from the royal family to the Spanish aristocracy. After the Spanish civil war, Balenciaga decided to move his business to Paris, the fashion capital of the world. In August 1937 he put on his first runway show at his Avenue George Atelier, showing a collection heavily influenced by the Spanish Renaissance. Balenciaga incorporated influences from the Catholic church and from periods in European history to his designs.
The exhibition was split into two sections, one looks at his garments and the second section which is separated by stairs shows the impact he has had on contemporary fashion designers.
One thing I have noticed about Balenciaga’s work was how timeless his pieces are. You could totally have rocked his clothes made from the 40s, 50s, 60s and wear it today (even in 50 years it will still be wearable). The way he was able to capture all elements of femininity, elegance, grace and at the same time he was experimental and innovative.
This has gone on to influence many designers which is displayed in the second phase of the exhibition.
I would definitely recommend everyone to go and see the exhibition. It completely blew my mind how every garment Balenciaga created had an extensive thought process. His artistry is flawless and my admiration for him has grown even more after going to the exhibition. If you only look at his protégées, who were under his wing, he deservedly owns the title of ‘Master of Couture’ (and no one yet has beat him in my opinion). Oscar de la Renta, Andre Courreges, Emaunel Ungaro and Hubert De Givenchy-were all his protégées- went on to build successful couture houses this therefore highlighting the greatness of Cristobal Balenciaga.
For more information, please see the V&A Website here: Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion at the V&A
Enjoy some more pictures that I took of the exhibition below: