A new version of PeepThat is on the way!

By Margherita Santus

The Fashion Architect exhibition

Opens at the V&A a retrospective exhibition on Balenciaga most revolutionary works.


Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion is focused on the most creative years of the Spanish couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga. The new exhibition opened at the Victoria and Albert Museum on the 27th of May, in occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Maison. It showcases the works of art of the Spanish master, focusing on the ‘50s and ‘60s, and explores the creations of the designers he has influenced.


The 100 clothes and 20 hats are distributed within three different sections. The first is the retrospective, which celebrates Balenciaga’s Salon and Atelier works. Going on looking at the collections by his “protégées”, for the likes of André Courrèges, Hubert de Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta, and Emanuel Ungaro. It then analyses the inheritance of the couturier looking at his influence on contemporary designers: Rei Kawakubo, Hussein Chalayan, Azzedine Alaïa, Erdem Moralioglu, Nicolas Ghesquière and Demna Gvasalia – current creative director at Balenciaga.


For curator Cassie Davies-Strodder, the 18-month of work were like revealing a secret treasure. She told Vogue, “He is such a mystery, because he didn’t do many interviews or write a biography. It’s tricky because there’s lot of mythology that builds up about someone like that. For the first 10 years of his fashion house, he banned the press from the first showings of his collections.”


Cristóbal Balenciaga opened his first boutique in San Sebastian, Spain, in 1919. He then inaugurated also in Madrid and Barcelona, becoming the designer for the Spanish Royal family. Due to the terrific situation during the Civil War, he found himself forced to move to Paris, where he opened his first Salon in 1937.


It is an exciting opportunity to rediscover Balenciaga’s eclecticism. His passion and care for details emerge in the peculiar and innovative designs and cuts, elegantly mixed with references to flamenco ruffles and matador’s jackets. The innovation was also in the fabrics: he was the first to use silk gazar, developed in 1958 with the Swiss textile industry Abraham.


As editor Diana Vreeland said, “For 20 years, he was the prophet of nearly every major change in silhouette.” Known also as the ‘architect’, he made a revolution in feminine silhouettes, allowing them to feel free. He introduced designs such as the baby-doll dress, the sack dress, the balloon hem. However, his main obsession was sleeves: raglan, kimono, puffed, dolman, balloon. A dress from 1951 in black piquet was renamed “Les Manches”, as it was build up around the huge belled sleeves.


One of the most intriguing parts of the exhibition is the highlight on the intricate garment construction through a series of X-rays. Created by artist Nick Veasey, the X-rays show hidden details that would be otherwise invisible and also solved the enigma surrounding the fuchsia ballgown, together with other garments that defy the laws of physics.


He said that he never started with a sketch, but it was always the fabric to lead him, and 100 years later we can still see how his passion has been an incredible gift to the fashion industry.


On until 18th February 2018


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