April 21 2014

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12 posts tagged "Cristobal Balenciaga"

Balenciaga: The Collector


Behind any great designer stand his influences. Behind Cristóbal Balenciaga stands a collection of clothing spanning 300 years. The new exhibition Cristóbal Balenciaga, Collector of Fashion, opening today at Paris’ Musée Galliera, takes a look at the great creator through the lens of his collection.

“The items from Cristóbal Balenciaga may be seen as poetic inventory covering three centuries, from the seventeenth to the beginning of the twentieth, and basically two countries, Spain and France,” says Galliera director Olivier Saillard, who curated the show. “The oldest pieces are certainly a pair of French bead-embroidered shoes from 1730, the latest clothes the Spanish folkloric ornaments from the 1910′s. It is a mix of Parisian fashion and Spanish traditional garments or sometimes unusual objects like head ornaments for donkeys.” It’s as notable for what it doesn’t include as for what it does: in this grouping, no pieces from the famous couturiers who were Balenciaga’s contemporaries and predecessors, but “less important labels, nowadays forgotten though interesting to his eyes.”

The exhibit juxtaposes more than 70 costumes and pieces of clothing with Balenciaga haute couture from 1937 to 1968, some from the museum’s own collection, some on loan from Maison Balenciaga, which is supporting the show along with its parent company PPR. The comparison, says Saillard, is illuminating. “The themes in his collection are quite constitutive of his style,” the curator explains. “Black color, especially for lace and embroidery; the shapes of the nineteenth-century garments; historicism in general; the extremely vigorous creativity of Spanish folk art in terms of shapes and colors. [It is] a sort of miscellaneous jigsaw on which he built his modernity.”

“This exhibition may be an invitation to discover, or more precisely imagine, how a fashion designer might build a collection,” he goes on. “Perhaps [it's] evidence a couture collection doesn’t come out of nowhere, that the own culture and history of a creator is always present in his work.”

Cristóbal Balenciaga, Collector of Fashion opens today at Galliera’s temporary space Les Docks, 34 quai d’Austerlitz, Paris, 01-76-77-25-30.

Pictured: An exhibition display (top). Pieces from Balenciaga’s collection: Traditional Andalucian men’s ballet costume in wool with silk passementerie, circa 1850-1900; wool, silk, and tulle cape, circa 1895 (middle). Pieces from Balenciaga Haute Couture collections: Evening look from Spring 1947; Evening look from Fall 1951 (bottom).

Photos: Pierre Antoine / Paris Musées (installation); © Stéphane Piera / Galliera / Roger-Viollet (ballet costume); © Eric Emo / Galliera / Roger-Viollet (cape); Balenciaga Archive (1947 and 1951 Couture looks)

Meet Me—And The Best Of Balenciaga—In San Francisco


Cameron Silver, owner of L.A.’s vintage couture mecca Decades, knows his way around an original Balenciaga. He had plenty to ogle at the opening of Balenciaga and Spain at San Francisco’s de Young Museum this week. Silver headed to the City by the Bay for the opening fête; read on for his report on the star-studded evening.

Although my flight to San Francisco was delayed three hours due to the rain (not from Spain!), I managed to throw on my tux in the car and make it to the de Young Museum in time for the exhilarating opening of Balenciaga and Spain, curated by Hamish Bowles. The show features a breathtaking collection of the master’s work, including dresses worn by Ava Gardner and Mona Bismarck.

The dress code of the evening, no surprise, skewed toward Balenciaga, both vintage and from the current Ghesquière era. Google’s Marissa Meyer was in a vintage sea foam Balenciaga gown from Decades. Maria Bello looked fabulous in original Cristobal, too, and Suzy Dominik scored an even bigger coup—a vintage gown that was also featured in the show. (Sloan Barnett wore Lacroix but asked the curator the question everyone was thinking: “You have so many gowns—can’t I have one?”) On the contemporary end, Miranda Kerr (left, with husband Orlando Bloom in tow), Katie Schwab, and Lawren Howell all chose Ghesquière designs; Angelique Griepp and Katie Traina scored Edition pieces.

If the clothes were terrific, the guest list was nothing to scoff at, either. Rodarte’s Kate and Laura Mulleavy, Mia Wasikowska (in Balenciaga with an Edition necklace), Balthazar and Rosetta Getty, Maggie Rizer, and Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom all were there, and even Gwyneth Paltrow made a brief appearance. Hubert de Givenchy wasn’t able to attend, alas, but sent a message recalling advice given to him by Balenciaga himself: “Success is not prestige—success is temporary. Prestige remains.” The show was sewn proof.

Photo: Drew Altizer Photography

Cristobal Balenciaga’s Cat Couture


To put it one way, Cristobal Balenciaga’s first model was rather feline: “At age six, Balenciaga cut his first coat,” Vogue‘s Hamish Bowles informed an intimate group at the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute in New York last night. “For his cat.” Not your typical first fitting, but a pivotal one nonetheless. “The cat kept moving and he got frustrated,” Bowles said of Balenciaga and his erstwhile muse. “Which is, perhaps, why he always thought about moveability and comfort in his designs later on.” The audience taking note at last night’s bash—a who’s who of CFDA designers, from Francisco Costa to Tory Burch and Marcus Wainwright—were gathered to take in Balenciaga: Spanish Master, an exhibit of the late Basque designer’s work curated by Bowles, himself an avid Balenciaga collector.

Oscar de la Renta, the evening’s co-host and the institute’s chairman, had a personal take on the show. As a young apprentice to the famously private designer, de la Renta recalled with a laugh, “When people ask how it was working in his atelier, I always tell them, ‘I was picking pins off the floor.’ I was terrified of him. He worked with only a small group of people, and he never gave an interview. He was very protective; I would say even suspicious.” If Balenciaga were alive today—his 116th birthday is this Friday, January 21—he most likely would have been appalled by the rash of celebrity-driven lines and Twitter devotees, but it seems even the master had a weak spot. “Balenciaga wasn’t a great sketcher,” de la Renta divulged. “But he was great with his hands.”

Photo: Billy Farrell /

Long Live The King


Among the designers of the twentieth century, Cristobal Balenciaga is just about peerless. His friend Coco Chanel called him “the only couturier”; when he passed away in 1972, at the age of 77, Women’s Wear Daily declared, “The king is dead.”

His work and legacy are now the subject of a new show at the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute in New York. (The Queen herself, as well as Oscar de la Renta, who conceived the exhibition, will even be on hand tonight to toast it.) Curated by Hamish Bowles, Balenciaga: Spanish Master plays up not only the master’s Parisian chic but also the influence of his native Spain, with references to bull fighters, the Basque, and the Catholic Church appearing throughout his work. (Given the circumstances, you might be inclined to forgive the light flamenco music playing in the background.) Balenciaga fled Spain during the Spanish Civil War, but the inspiration he drew from it remained with him for the rest of his life.

The show includes more than 70 dresses and accessories, sourced all over the world, from the Balenciaga archives in Paris to private owners to academic collections. Beginning in the thirties—a dramatic silk Infanta evening dress from 1939 is a standout—the show moves through the sixties, the height of his technical mastery, evident in a simple black silk crepe dress and gazar Chou head wrap from 1967. It’s a must-see reminder to the house’s legions of contemporary fans that, yes, there was life before the Motorcycle bag.

Balenciaga: Spanish Master runs November 19 to February 19, 2011, at Queen Sofía Spanish Institute, 684 Park Ave., NYC, (212) 628-0420,

Photo: Kenny Komer

What Made Balenciaga Balenciaga, And Other Intricacies of Spanish Fashion


In the annals of fashion history, certain countries (France, Italy, England, the U.S.) get their fair share of credit, and deservedly so. But the contributions of Spain are lesser known, even though the work of Spanish designers has been some of the most influential in history—think of Cristobal Balenciaga or the Lanvin couturier Antonio del Castillo. The new Geografía de la Moda Española gives them and their countrymen their due. Edited by Modesto Lomba, president of the Spanish Fashion Designers’ Association, and with a preface by’s Candy Pratts Price, the book pays tribute to the breadth of Spanish design and the ingenuity of Spanish designers, from the well enshrined (Mariano Fortuny) to the rising international stars (like Davidelfin’s David DelfĂ­n, or Juanjo Oliva, whose designs are pictured above). spoke to Lomba about the history and legacy of Iberian design.

Are there signatures of Spanish fashion?
Spanish designers have been using traditional elements as inspirations—the whole image of the torero, the bullfighter, or the folk elements of the region. But so have some international designers. Spanish fashion has a lot of history to support it, but fashion today is global. So Spanish fashion is influenced not only by its own history but also by other modern designers throughout the world. To go out of Spain is also important, but to have that basis of Spanish history, and the roots of Spanish design, makes it easier to be truly international.

The book is called Geografía de la Moda EspañolaThe Geography of Spanish Fashion. Are there significant regional differences throughout Spain, in terms of style?
Spain is very diverse. If you go, for example, to the south, designs are more ornamented; in the north, they are much simpler. That’s one of the reasons why Balenciaga favored such clean, linear design—it was, in part, because of where in Spain he was. Right now, the runway in Cibeles, in Madrid, that’s the one that represents the whole aesthetic of Spain. The runway in Barcelona is much more regional; it’s representing Cataluña. Right now, if, for example, a journalist wants to know what’s going on, it would be Madrid, and not Barcelona.

Are there areas where Spanish design is ahead of its international counterparts?
One of the things that might differentiate Spanish fashion from other leading countries is that, if you take somewhere like Italy, they’re focusing more on the big corporations and the big fashion brands. Spain is focusing more on the young talent. That support allows them to be more creative, really to explode their own creativity.

Photo: Juan Gatti for ACME