Many fashions come and go, yet what was so special about Cristobal Balenciaga was his ability to transcend the notion of the temporal, ultimately creating timeless shapes and designs that are still with us today. This legacy was addressed in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s newest exhibition, ‘Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion’, which showcased his many creative facets as a designer, and the abundance of imagination and precision that he puts into his designs that are still familiar today.
From dainty feminine designs to crisp sharp tailoring and copious layers, Balenciaga’s approach was far from one dimensional, materialising in many forms against the body. Many ensembles stood out in the familiarity that their designs still have today; a grey skirt suit fitted with an oversized collar would still be well suited for the smart woman, a floral babydoll dress perfectly epitomises the feminine, and full-length gowns are still a must have outfit for a formal event.
Visitors were also provided with an insight of Balenciaga’s working process as a designer, aided with visual tools such as x rays of the garments. Such visual information enables those to appreciate the painstaking precision the designer endured to ensure that clothes were weighted to a specific, allowing them to flow off of the body in a certain way and create the shapes that he was remembered for.
Within the display were creations by other designers, resulting in a comparison and understanding of just how much Balenciaga has served as an inspiration for his contemporaries. Iris van Herpen’s amalgamation of fashion and fine art familiarly echoed the artistic tone of Balenciaga’s garments, Oscar de la Renta’s use of floral patterns appeared to imitate his very own, and Demna Gvasalia’s open collars very much recurred against Balenciaga’s designs to make the neckline a focal point. Through simply observing the works of other designers, it became apparent that Balenciaga’s approach to fashion has lived on through those who both wear and design it.
Balenciaga’s work emphasised the importance of shape to fashion, an aspect that is so often overlooked over the allure of fine details. ‘Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion’ illustrated just how many shapes the designer created that have become a staple today, demonstrating the importance he has had in shaping the fashion of the present and the future.
‘Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion’ runs at the Victoria and Albert museum from May 27th 2017-February 18th 2018.