I didn’t know a great deal about Cristóbal Balenciaga and his work before I visited the Victoria and Albert’s acclaimed exhibition. Of course I knew the name but I was unaware of the vast influence his exquisite craftsmanship and innovative designs have had on fashion.
Whilst not on the scale of the Alexander McQueen blockbuster, ‘Savage Beauty’ the more intimate setting suits ‘Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion‘, showcasing the groundbreaking designs and their deceptive simplicity. His work in the Fifties broke new ground, moving away from Dior’s dominant ‘new look’ with a string of startling new shapes:
‘Balenciaga achieved what is considered to be his most important contribution to the world of fashion: a new silhouette for women.’ Beth Duncuff Charleston.
The designs played with the relationship between his clothes and a woman’s body. The simple shapes and understated surfaces were often highly complex constructions, as seen in the x-rays presented with some of the garments. He pushed the boundaries of what was possible and acceptable at the time. As Christian Dior said:
‘He was the master of us all.’
This really is a fascinating show, highlighting the work of a man breaking new ground and challenging conventions, and I cannot recommend it enough. The exhibition runs until Sunday, 18 February 2018, and you can read a wonderful interview with Cassie Davies-Strodder, the curator of the V&A show here.
All Photos and Text ©Jonathan Dredge.