"A couturier must be an architect for design, a sculpture for shape, a painter for colour, a musician for harmony and a philosopher for temperance" -Cristobal Balenciaga
With the sparkle of NY celebrations fading but the Friday feeling spring in our step, we escaped the studio a little early last week to treat ourselves to a much belated float around an exhibition that’s long been the toast of the town and on our fun to do list for months. Balenciaga Shaping Fashion and the magic that is the V&A proved the perfect way to bid the working week goodbye.
Revered by his contemporaries, including Coco Chanel and Dior, and known for dressing some of fashion’s most iconic women, the exhibition is both an ode to the man hailed by some as the one true designer, and a glorious education into his profound and lasting influence.
Split into sections,“Front Of House”, “Workrooms”, and “Balenciaga's Legacy” the exhibition radiates a mellow charm, cocooning visitors amongst the museum’s extensive collection of pieces and outfits donated from personal archives around the world. Famed for his innovative silhouettes and garment construction, the ground floor is dedicated to Balenciaga’s craftsmanship, with x-ray photography from artist Nick Veasey put to good use in revealing the designer’s incredibly intricate work.
Short films demonstrate the considerable skill used to create bespoke fabrics, and an example of a suit design-and-fit shows the remarkable attention to detail and process. Order books and design sketches offer intimate insights, a replica of his iconic cape-come-skirt is available for a spot of dress up, and a personal highlight for us was the feature display of 20 original Balenciaga hats.
Gliding up the stairs the space opens up into high ceilings and a light space you wish you could wake up in every morning. Dedicated to his legacy and how he has shaped fashion, pieces from Azzedine Alaïa, Oscar de la Renta, Comme des Garçons, Simone Rocha, Erdem, Molly Goddard and Vetements, to name a few, all feature; connecting the influential dots that resonate in modern day.
A lifetime could be lost wandering amongst all the treasures this museum has to offer, and the permanent exhibitions will delight long after this one departs. But if you have the time to indulge on a weekend or the impulse to sneak off early from work like we did then it's well worth the risk of getting yourself into trouble.
.“Balenciaga alone is a couturier in the truest sense of the word. Only he is capable of cutting material, assembling a creation and sewing it by hand. The others are simply fashion designers” - Coco Chanel
“He is the conductor to the Haute Couture Orchestra” - Christian Dior