cristóbal balenciaga will be the subject of v&a retrospective next year
The London institution will honor 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 recognized; 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 span 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 revolutionized 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 honored by London's V&A as it opens Shaping Fashion, an exhibition 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 designers' legacies are more relevant today.
Vetements' Demna Gvasalia currently helms Balenciaga's house, and keeps the designer's spirit alive by pushing his iconoclastic and imaginative spirit into a new age.
Text Felix Petty
Photo courtesy of Balenciaga Archives