What To Expect From The Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion Exhibition

A Celebration Of The Couturier's Couturier

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For the millennial who scrolls through her Instagram feed every hour on the hour (if not sooner), Balenciaga is a word synonymous with cool.

Just ask the flocks of fans who worship at the feet of laundry-bag master and creative director, Demna Gvasalia, who currently resides at the helm of the house.

Left to right: skirt suit, Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1954 – 5, Paris. Museum no. T.128&A-1982. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Demna Gvasalia for Balenciaga, Autumn Winter 2016 ready-to-wear, look 1. Photograph courtesy of Catwalking.com
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But the magic and allure of Balenciaga goes above and beyond Demna — or previous creative directors Alexander Wang and Nicolas Ghesquière — as the hotly anticipated V&A exhibition, Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion, is about to illustrate.

Cristóbal Balenciaga at work, 1968, Paris, France. Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson. © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos

It starts with the founder, the Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga, who founded the house in 1919 in San Sebastián and opened the Paris couture house of Avenue George V in 1937 — a man fondly referred to amongst his contemporaries including Dior and Chanel as 'The Master.'

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Babydoll evening dress, Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1958, Paris. Museum no. T.334-1997. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Alberta Tiburzi in 'envelope' dress by Cristóbal Balenciaga. Photograph by Hiro Wakabayashi for Harper's Bazaar, June 1967. © Hiro 1967

The exhibition hosts over 100 such pieces crafted by the master as well as works from his protégées (most notably Hubert de Givenhcy and Oscar de la Renta) and illustrates how 30 designers from the last 50 years have been influenced and inspired by the genius of Balenciaga.

To the everyman Balenciaga may not conjure up a specific piece; there are no tweed suits which nod to Chanel, no obvious Saint Laurent safari jackets or Valentino tulle. But he was a man who changed the way women wore fashion through his inventive interpretations of shape and silhouette.

Model Wearing Balenciaga Evening Dress and Cape, photograph by Irving Penn for Vogue, 1950. © Condé Nast. Sack dress, Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1957, Paris. Museum no. T.90-1973. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Feminine yet incredibly modern shapes became the Balenciaga trademark: the square coat, the envelope dress, the balloon dress. He also famously shunned press to protect his unique designs from piracy, his clients were his priority and they flocked to him like groupies worshipping at the hands of the ultimate couturier master. For no one could cut quite like Cristóbal.

The Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion exhibition opens on May 27th and tickets are available to purchase here.

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