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Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion Exhibition – V&A

In the midst of political turmoil and an increasingly harsh world, we need art, culture and beautiful things more than ever. I was waiting with baited breath to see the V&A’s fashion exhibition calendar this year, and wasn’t disappointed when they announced Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion as their major 2017 retrospective. 

Envelope Dress 1967

The Spanish designer is widely considered to be one of the twentieth century’s most pioneering and original designers. To have Christian Dior refer to him as “the master of us all” is some accolade. In the 1950s, he totally transformed the silhouette by removing the waist (creating the Empire Line) and contributed some of the most important contributions to the fashion world, including the sack dress, the balloon skirt and the cocoon coat. 

Balenciaga at work, 1968

Cristobal Balenciaga opened his first boutique in San Sebastian in 1919, and rose to fame when the Spanish royal family and the aristocracy started wearing his designs. His popularity grew as the Spanish Civil War raged, and he made the decision to close his stores and moved to Paris, opening his first store there in 1937. He became an immediate hit in Paris, and was lauded as a revolutionary in the French press. Business was booming; customers even risked their lives during World War II to travel to Europe to see his clothes. His square coat was a big hit during this period.

Cocoon coat

The retrospective is the first exhibition of the designer’s work in the UK, and marks the 80th anniversary of the opening of his Paris salon. Expect to see one hundred garments (as well as his protégées and contemporary designers) and twenty hats – alongside photographs, sketches, film, fabric samples and even x-rays of some of his designs. Many of the pieces have not been shown in public before. If you’re a budding designer or interested in the technical aspects of fashion, then you’ll be in heaven. His superb craftsmanship and techniques will be examined in detail, as well as how his work impacted the future of fashion design.

X-ray of silk taffeta evening dress, 1955
Wild silk evening dress (embroidery by Lesage), 1960-1962

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion will take place at the V&A from May 27th 2017 to February 18th 2018. 

Tickets are £12 (click here to buy)

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