cristóbal balenciaga to be subject of v&a retrospective next year
The London institution will honour the fashion legacy of an iconic Spanish couturier.
Few designers have a legacy like Cristóbal Balenciaga. Born and raised in a small Basque fishing village by a seamstress mother, he was something of a prodigy in the world of fashion. Beginning as a tailor's apprentice aged just 12, his talent was immediately recognised and he honed his craft in Madrid before returning to the Basque Country in 1917, aged just 22, to open his first shop in Donostia-San Sebástian. His career would stretch out until 1986, when he closed his business at the age of 74. The Spanish Civil War had forced him to relocate to Paris in the 30s.
By the 50s he was renowned as the king of couture, and throughout the decade he constantly revolutionised the silhouette of the times; he made fashion sculptural, surprising and fluid. Alongside Christian Dior and Coco Chanel, he can be counted as one whose energy and iconoclasm reimagined what was possible in fashion.
Now Cristobal's legacy will be honoured by London's V&A as they open an exhibition, Shaping Fashion, dedicated to his legacy next year, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of that first shop in San Sebástian. The exhibition will bring together hundreds of items; from dress to hats to sketches, showing the skill and craftsmanship of the designer who is famed for his ability to cut, sew and design himself.
Few more designer's legacy are more relevant today, with Vetements' Demna Gvasalia currently helming the house, and keeping the designer's spirit alive by pushing the house's iconoclastic and imaginative spirit into a new age.
Text Felix Petty
Photo courtesy of Balenciaga Archives