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Santiago Rivera
Santiago Rivera

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion



As a brand with a long history of supporting the fashion industry, American Express is proud to partner with the V&A. Our Card Members are increasingly passionate about art and design, so we're delighted to share this unique exhibition with them and other visitors of the V&A. We hope you enjoy this exquisite collection of work by Cristóbal Balenciaga and the contemporary designers inspired by him as much we do.




Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion



The retrospective, entitled Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion, will be the first exhibition dedicated to the famed Spanish designer in the UK, marking the 100th anniversary of the opening of his first fashion house and 80 years since he opened the doors of his famous Paris salon. Featuring around 100 garments and 20 hats crafted by the couturier and his followers - alongside sketches, photographs, film and fabric samples - it will examine in detail the craftsmanship and techniques that earned Balenciaga the reputation as one of the most pioneering designers of the 20th century and look at how his work impacted the future of fashion design.


Cool, I did a little research on Lesage when I was making my bead book. His studio did some impressive embroidery and bead work. Perhaps the structural elements of fashion could be translated into sculptural felt objects?


Cristóbal began his career in Spain in 1919 designing for the Spanish royal family and aristocracy, moving on to Paris in 1937 to escape the Spanish Civil War. Once in Paris he quickly gained notoriety as a fashion innovator and his couture house caught the attention of the top fashion editors and luxury fashion customers from around the world. Over the years, Pauline de Rothschild, Bunny Mellon and Jackie Kennedy were just a few of his most ardent fans.


As well as being a maverick, Balenciaga was a businessman. After opening his first self-titled fashion house in 1917 in San Sebastian, the centenary of which this exhibition celebrates, he opened his sister line, Eisa, in Madrid in 1933. Eisa was pitched at a lower price point, a more accessible line of slightly more traditional styles, like ready-to-wear lines today, which was a shrewd move, especially during the 1936-39 Spanish civil war and the second world war, when the brand could easily adapt to the conservatism of Franco or the limited availability of imported material. In Paris in 1956, he delayed press viewings of his shows to ensure that counterfeit copies could not be made that reduced the value of his own original designs.


Book review: Maker of Dreams, the Mother of them All. Madeleine Vionnet, edited by Pamela Golbin Since the 1939 closing of her maison, Vionnet has been eclipsed in fashion histories by more colourful contemporaries Paul Poiret and Chanel.


Studies in Form. Roberto Capucci: Art into Fashion For those who did not have an opportunity to view the spring/summer 2011 retrospective of Italian fashion designer Roberto Capucci


The Victoria & Albert museum in London recently announced its 2017 calendar of exhibitions. Fashion fans will be happy to know that they will be treated to a major retrospective dedicated to Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga. Entitled "Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion" (27 May 2017 - 18 February 2018) the event is set to become the next big fashion exhibit after "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty".


This is the first time Balenciaga gets a retrospective in the UK, but the event will also mark the 90th anniversary of the opening of his first high fashion house (Eisa Costura) and the 80th anniversary of the opening of his Paris salon.


A press release announced that the event will feature around 100 garments and 20 hats (hopefully his architectural headpieces will be included) - pieces collected for the museum by Balenciaga's friend, fashion photographer Cecil Beaton. Most of these pieces are part of the V&A archive, but they are rarely seen.


X-rays have actually become quite popular in fashion exhibitions, and they are stirring fashion towards a new discipline: in the last few years some architectural practices developed projects inspired by "forensic architecture", that is an investigation of a specific space where a particular incident happened (imagine a city that has been bombed during a war).


Can't wait till next May? Always keep an eye on what's on at the Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum in Getaria, Spain. Since it opened in 2011, the museum has organized fashion exhibitions and events about fashion and interior design, launched construction classes about some of his most interesting pieces, lent garments to other institutions and analysed Balenciaga's more obscure collaborations such as his iconic design created for a performing group, while also launching rich programmes of educational activities for families and children.


When a major fashion exhibtion comes to London, we love to go and see what it is all about and the Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion Exhibition currently on at the Victoria and Albert Museum does not disappoint. Based in the fashion and textiles section of the museum, the exhibition goes through from the beginnings of Balenciaga as a brand, through to current designers that Balenciaga has influenced.


Carved out by a man named Cristobal, the Balenciaga fashion house is one that benefitted from an incredibly talented master couturier from the outset. Unlike most designers, Balenciaga was trained in all aspects of the making process: from design to dressmaking. He counted Madeleine Vionnet and Coco Chanel as friends and was part of the original elite club of undeniably talented and innovative fashion couturiers.


In the 1950s, at a time when most designers were following the New Look fashion, Balenciaga was looking to the future, pushing boundaries, and experimenting with shapes in ways which can still be seen on the catwalks of today.


The exhibition examines the work and legacy of the influential spanish couturier with over 100 pieces crafted by the master of couture, his protégées and contemporary fashion designers working in the same innovative tradition.


As the house of Balenciaga celebrates 100 years since the opening of the first fashion house in San Sebastian and 80 years since its Parisian Salon debuted, the Victoria & Albert Museum opens a retrospective exhibition of one of the 20th centuries most avant garde and pioneering designers.


Bonnie Rakhit is founder of award winning fashion and travel blog The Style Traveller. Formerly the fashion editor at British Elle Magazine her blog is a fashion editor's guide to the world's most stylish places. She was recently voted in the Evening Standard's top 25 lifestyle influencers. Follow Bonnie on Instagram @bonnierakhit and on the blog thestyletraveller.com


Balenciaga was a visionary like no other. He created such a powerful impact on the world of fashion that for decades to come fashion designers were inspired by his genius & still continue to do so. He dared to experiment & think beyond the confines of what was acceptable unlike any other couturier of his time. His contemporaries admired him immensely & had utmost respect for his work.


Cassie Davies-Strodder is the curator behind the exhibit which required 18 months of preparation. Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion, delves into the archives of the iconic designer, putting some of his most notorious designs from the 1950s/1960s era on display. In addition, the exhibition highlights the work of more contemporary names in the fashion world such as JW Anderson, Iris van Herpen and Commes des Garçon, who each admit to having been influenced in their designs by the work of the Spaniard.


Known for his sculptural designs, the couturier closed the Balenciaga fashion house in the year 1968, at the age of 74. Four years later, the designer died in his native country, in the coastal town Xàbia. Following its 1968 closure, the Balenciaga rights were acquired by Jacques Bogart S.A. in 1986, which brought the brand back in business. The Balenciaga company is currently owned by French conglomerate Kering and falls under the creative supervision of Georgian designer Demna Gvasalia. In April this year Balenciaga made global headlines over a $2150 tote bag from its spring/summer collection, similar to Ikea's $0,99 Frakta bag.


Cristobal Balenciaga's work was a process of refinement. Season after season, year after year, he would hone each silhouette, using only the finest materials to sculpt pure forms that would enhance the wearer's body. His friend Cecil Beaton--who engineered the donation of much of the Victoria and Albert Museum's collection of Balenciaga' s work from titled women and film stars such as Ava Gardner--wrote in The Glass of Fashion (1954) that "Balenciaga does not provide any startling changes. His is a slow and carefully worked out development". This fashion philosophy, which involves artistic focus and evolution, rather than rapidly changing trends, places him in a small cadre of designers whose work was crucial to fashion's development and innovation: Madeleine Vionnet, his predecessor and mentor, crystallized this approach in the interwar years, and now Azzedine Alaia continues the tradition.


More than three decades after his death, Balenciaga is most admired for his devotion to couture crafts. His understanding of tailoring and its transformative potential was fundamental to his designs, and led to ever greater assurance in cut (some of his later garments contained few seams and no darts). The V&A's new exhibition, Balenciaga: Shaping fashion, remains true to his vision, with its emphasis on the elements that go into...


Some ideas, drawn from the required book, that can help with inspiration include travel / travelers, world views, global fashion, transformation / change, destiny, dreams, alchemy / magic, meaning of love ... You may discover other themes to explore.


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