Balenciaga Shaping fashion exhibition at the V&A museum London

By Sebastian Marc

Balenciaga needs no introduction, regarded as the master of Haute Couture, recognized world over by his iconic designs and  craftsmanship his work revolutionized the female silhouette and set the  basis for modern fashion. His work will be showcased in a much awaited exhibition at the V&A in London. Original pieces, sketches, fabrics and many surprises will be on show from the 27th of May.

Cristobal Balenciaga was born and raised in Spain´s Basque region in the town of Getaria. His mother, a seamstress who dressed the Basque region´s most glamorous ladies, influenced Cristobal to follow her footsteps. By 1917 he had already established his first fashion house in chic San Sebastian.  He continued to launch fashion houses n Barcelona and Madrid before taking his genius to Paris in 1937. His exclusive flagship in the heart of Avenue George V became the most solicited and exclusive store in all of Paris.

© Mark Shaw /

In the 50´s and 60´s Balenciaga explored shapes and fabric that were unforeseen in the fashion industry. In 1957 he stunned the fashion world with his inception of the “sack dress”. Although it initially faced criticism, like most of his radical designs, it became a fashion staple in the 60s and continues to do so in the present day.  His abstraction of the female figure was his way of sculpturing the body into his desired shape. His famous Envelope dress was the pinnacle of this technique. The use of delicate materials such as silk Gazar contrasted with highly structured forms laid the foundations for the modernity of fashion.

Fashion lovers are in luck as the V&A will debut the first exhibition dedicated to Balenciaga´s life and work in the UK. The exhibition will showcase over 100 of Balenciaga´s original pieces a long with sketches and photography of Balenciaga. From his iconic baby doll and shift dresses ,to garments worn by Ava Gardner, along with commissioned pieces by one of the richest women of all time, Mona Von Bismarck.

  “Haute couture is like an orchestra whose conductor is Balenciaga. We other couturiers are the musicians and we follow the directions he gives.”

Christian Dior

Furthermore, an exciting new collaboration with the London college of Fashion has enabled to showcase forensic investigations and X rays, by artist Nick Veasey, which display the hidden details behind Balenciaga´s masterpieces.

Christobal BALENCIAGA (à gauche).

  “Elegance is elimination”

Cristobal Balenciaga

The exhibition continues with an exploration to Balenciaga´s legacy and influence in modern fashion. Pieces designed by Balenciaga´s former protege´s such as Emanuel Ungaro and Andre Courreges are also on show. Balenciaga´s Influence is drawn into the modern day with references of his creative use of materials and attention to detail that perpetuate in the works of Nicolas Ghesquiere or Phoebe Philo.

“A couturier must be an architect for design, sculptor for shape, a painter for colour, a musician for harmony, and a philosopher for temperance.”

Cristobal Balenciaga

The “Shaping Fashion Exhibition” marks the centenary anniversary of Balenciaga´s first fashion house in San Sebastian and the 80th anniversary of his Parisian flagship. Which makes this exhibition not only a commemoration but an ideal way to celebrate all things Balenciaga and his invaluable legacy on the fashion industry.

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion, sponsored by American Express, at the V&A from 27 May 2017 – 18 February 2018.

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