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Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion


Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion




Cristóbal Balenciaga was one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century. His exquisite craftsmanship and innovative use of fabrics revolutionized the female silhouette, setting the tone for modern fashion. In 2017, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London hosted an exhibition titled "Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion" to celebrate his work and legacy. The exhibition showcased over 100 garments and hats crafted by Balenciaga, his protégés and contemporary designers working in the same innovative tradition.


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The exhibition focused on Balenciaga's work from the 1950s and 1960s, arguably the most creative period of his career, when he dressed some of the most renowned women of the age and became revered by his contemporaries, including Christian Dior and Coco Chanel. The exhibition featured examples of Balenciaga's revolutionary shapes from this period, such as the tunic, sack, baby doll and shift dresses, all of which remain style staples today. Other highlights included ensembles made by Balenciaga for Hollywood actress Ava Gardner, dresses and hats belonging to socialite and 1960s fashion icon Gloria Guinness, and pieces worn by one of the world's wealthiest women, Mona von Bismarck, who commissioned everything from ball-gowns to gardening shorts from the couturier.


The exhibition also explored the lasting impact of Balenciaga, tracing his influence through the work of over 30 fashion designers across the last 50 years. Pieces designed by Balenciaga's former apprentices André Courrèges and Emanuel Ungaro demonstrated a signature minimalist aesthetic, recently revived by Phoebe Philo for Celine and in the strong lines of J.W. Anderson. The exhibition also featured works by designers such as Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake, Hussein Chalayan and Alexander McQueen, who have all drawn inspiration from Balenciaga's mastery of form, volume and structure.


The exhibition was not only a visual feast for fashion lovers, but also a rich source of information and insight into Balenciaga's salons and workrooms. The exhibition displayed archive sketches, patterns, photographs, fabric samples and catwalk footage, revealing the hidden details and processes that make Balenciaga's work so exceptional. The exhibition also collaborated with X-ray artist Nick Veasey and the London College of Fashion to conduct new forensic investigations into the garments, using X-ray technology and digital pattern making to uncover the secrets behind Balenciaga's construction techniques.


"Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion" was a tribute to the genius and legacy of Cristóbal Balenciaga, who shaped modern fashion with his vision and skill. The exhibition was a rare opportunity to see his masterpieces up close and to appreciate his influence on contemporary fashion design.


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