take a look inside the uk's first ever balenciaga exhibition

'Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion' opens in London in May. The exhibition showcases iconic work from the couturier's archive.

by Ryan White
02 February 2017, 3:59pm

Elise Daniels with street performers, suit by Balenciaga, Le Marais, Paris, 1948. Photograph by Richard Avedon © The Richard Avedon Foundation

The UK is about get its first Balenciaga exhibition. The Victoria & Albert Museum will display the work of house founder Cristóbal alongside that of his contemporaries and protégés, so as to trace the couturier's influence on modern fashion. It arrives a century after the opening of Balenciaga's first fashion house in San Sebastián, and the 80th anniversary of its Paris atelier.

"His lasting impact on fashion will be explored through the work of those who trained with him and through recent garments by designers including Molly Goddard, Demna Gvasalia, and J.W.Anderson who reflect the legacy of his vision today," said Cassie Davies-Strodder, V&A exhibition curator.

Cristóbal Balenciaga at work, Paris, 1968. Photograph Henri Cartier-Bresson © Henri Cartier-Bresson, Magnum Photos

Divided into three sections — Front of House, Workrooms, and Balenciaga's Legacy — over 100 garments and 20 hats will be on display, some of which have never been seen by the public. These will sit alongside further Balenciaga ephemera: sketches, patterns, photographs, fabric samples, and catwalk footage. A 360 look inside the iconic fashion house, the exhibition will pay particular attention to the fine details of Cristóbal's couture work — with animated patterns and short films on couture-making processes, as well as using X-ray technology to look at the hidden details inside Cristóbal's garments.

The exhibition is perfectly pitched at a time when Balenciaga fever is high. Following the demure modernism of Alexander Wang, current creative director Demna Gvasalia — also of Vetements — has injected a unique view of sex and sensuality to the house, with the fall/winter 17 men's show being arguably the most discussed of the season. As Demna looks to the future of the house, the time is certainly ripe to look back.

Read: Feel the bern as Balenciaga pays tribute to Bernie Sanders at its fall/winter 17 show.

Flamenco-style evening dress, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Paris, 1961. Photograph by Cecil Beaton, 1971 © Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's

Dovima with Sacha, cloche and suit by Balenciaga, Café des Deux Magots, Paris, 1955. Photograph by Richard Avedon © The Richard Avedon Foundation

Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn wearing coat by Cristóbal Balenciaga, Paris, 1950. Photograph by Irving Penn © Condé Nast, Irving Penn Foundation

Alberta Tiburzi in 'envelope' dress by Cristóbal Balenciaga, Harper's Bazaar, June 1967 © Hiro 1967

Bolero jacket, EISA, Spain, 1947 © Museo Cristóbal Balenciaga

Skirt suit, wool and silk, Demna Gvasalia for Balenciaga, Paris, Autumn Winter 2016 ready-to-wear, look 1 © Catwalking

'Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion' opens on May 27, 2017. The exhibition will be accompanied by a new V&A publication and a series of related events, courses, and creative workshops. Tickets are on sale today


Text Ryan White

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