Exhibition: Cristóbal Balenciaga

Posted by on Aug 12, 2012 in Global View | No Comments

Balenciaga: a sense of eternity

In honour of Balenciaga’s death 40 years ago, the Palais Galliera, the Fashion Museum in Paris, organised at the Docks, Cité de la mode et du designPalais Galliera is closed for renovation – an exhibition entitled Cristobal Balenciaga: Fashion collector which will be opened till the 7th of October 2012.

With contributions from the House of Balenciaga the exhibition gathers more than 70 fashion pieces including garments, stoles, samples of fabrics, engravings, illustrations, costumes… some dating from as far back as the late 18th century – most of which have been part of Balenciaga’s personal collection – as well as 40 garments designed by the Spanish designer.

The exhibition is divided into six sections, each examining a specific type of garment the designer collected and used for inspiration. The six sections are: Collars, Coats and Capes; Lace and Guipure– a coarse large-patterned lace without a net ground -; Folklore and Regionalism; Historicism; Pure and Geometric Forms and finally Monastic Robes.


What is in fact proposed here is a journey into Balenciaga’s creative mind investigating inspiration and creative process. Regarded by many as one of the history’s greatest fashion designer, Balenciaga is known for his innovation and modernity. Less known, his avid collecting of period pieces did however provide inspiration for many of his creations. The exhibition clearly demonstrates that Balenciaga was passionate about fashion history and shows how this taste for impregnate many of his creations.

The couturier born and raised in Spain naturally drew inspiration from Spanish folklore garments. Having taken refuge in France during Franco’s dictatorship, Parisian fashion – shown here in engravings, illustrations and vintage pieces garments – also had an influence.

19th century virgin Robe collected by Balenciaga

At times, inspiration came from further afield as illustrated by oriental pieces like burnooses – a hooded cloak worn especially by Arabs and Berbers – or oriental skullcap and religious attire also part of his personal collection.

Balenciaga was indeed inspired by a wide range of sources; some are expected, other are rather surprising such as horse harness, torero’s costume or elements of religious decorations. The religious world and its attire held a fascination over Balenciaga; after all he has been nicknamed the bishop of modernity! As most of Balenciaga’s inspiration came from the past how come the Spanish designer, Christian Dior himself called the master of us all, was so modern?

Butterfly: an evening coat inspired by the Virgin Robe

The exhibition clearly demonstrates that Balenciaga’s modernity was not achieved by using the many revolutionary material and techniques which appeared in his times but rather by using old or common fabrics in new ways. The designer innovated with a new approach to the woman silhouette by broadening the shoulders and removing the waist. Balenciaga 50’s silhouettes define precise and simple volumes not directly related to women’s body; the purity and classicism of these lines are what make him a modern.

Balenciaga’s ability to evoke the past while being able to define a modern approach is one explanation of Balenciaga’s huge success. Certainly the reconciliation of past and present in Balenciaga’s designs allows them to bear a sense of eternity. In the same way, Nicolas Ghesquière, today’s celebrated Balenciaga creative director, relies on fashion history and the work of his predecessor for inspiration. The tour de force of both designers is to from this inspiration to be able to create very forward and modern collections. In Balenciaga words they are able to including the past to then forget it.



Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Joana Leite