Balenciaga isn’t exactly a household name. I’ve never owned anything from Balenciaga in the same way that I’ve owned a Chanel lipstick or perfume before I could finally afford to buy myself a Chanel bag. But Balenciaga is still one of the most well known fashion brands of our era and so it’s fitting that the V&A pays homage to him in their latest fashion exhibit.
Spanish born Balenciaga is best know for heavy fabrics in his designs which are cut into odd and unflattering shapes. For example, the bubble cut skirt or box shaped coat. Yet despite the quirky designs for his time he was still named the “master of us all” by Christian Dior. During WWII clients would risk their safety to travel to Paris to see Balenciaga’s shows. In his post-war years the designer moved away from Dior’s New Look silhouette (a cinched waist and exaggerated hip) by making women’s waistlines completely disappear with clothes. His garments were baggy in comparison to other designs and, in a way, these silhouettes gave women more freedom of movement in clothes. His designs were entirely different to my expectations and are, really, quite innovative.
More recently you may know Balenciaga because Giselle Bunchen and Kristen Stewart wore his dresses to the Met Gala. The designer’s sneakers are also incredibly popular on the streetwear scene at the moment. It’s likely you’ve seen a few knock-off’s around on Missguided. Or maybe you’ve seen his summer take-over of Colette in Paris. Whilst I was there over summer I managed to take a look at the Balenciaga layout in Colette and it was honestly quite random. There was a Porsche sawed into four in the middle of the room and the only thing I could afford was a €20 lighter.
The V & A exhibit costs 12£ to enter but is free to members and if they have a guest attached to their pass they get in free too.
The exhibit was a great blend of traditional and interactive display. There were a couple of activities that you could get involved in. Such as, making your own silhouette dress out of paper and trying on one of Balenciaga’s skirts. The displays featured x-ray’s of some of the dresses so you could see the corseting inside. Others were on rotating stands so you could see the dresses from all angles.
“You can tell that he was most famous for his interesting take on the female silhouette as some of the pieces are astonishing.”
As you walked round the exhibit you learn about Balenciaga’s beginnings, from his popular era and to his reception now. You can tell that he was most famous for his interesting take on the female silhouette. The video counterparts to the clothing showed how the clothing had been made to sit at odd angles which was especially helpful because some of the pieces were so weird it was difficult to visualise someone actually making it.
I really enjoyed seeing the quirkier pieces and the sketches. I always think that sketches add a human touch to exhibits. Some of my favourite pieces include the layered cardigan, the black box dress and free-standing cape (pictured below).
P.S: I would love it if you would support my blog on Bloglovin by clicking the button above!