13 posts tagged "Cristobal Balenciaga"
Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-a-Porter, and the new chairman of the British Fashion Council, was in a justifiably good mood after three days of men’s shows in London. We were talking about the factors that contributed to shows’ success, and one thing that was instantly obvious was how the established and the edge have come together under one umbrella: Savile Row and…well, whatever Aitor Throup is.
Throup’s presentation in a gallery in King’s Cross (above) was titled New Object Research, but the parentheses were more significant: (The full reveal of the first complete ready-to-wear collection). Twenty pieces arranged in four looks is scarcely complete in any traditional sense, but it was the culmination of six years of work, and six years of intense optimism on the part of industry insiders who’ve patiently clung to the conviction that Throup brings something unique to fashion. It was certainly on display here in the extraordinary construction of the clothes and the stark beauty of their presentation. Throup is a man obsessed. All he wants is a new way to do things, and once he has mastered that way, he would love it to become an industry standard. You haven’t appreciated a buttonhole until you’ve heard him detail the process with which he closes his garments. And to hear him talk about the perfect shoulder is surely a glimpse of what Cristobal Balenciaga’s acquaintances must have endured as Cris nattered on about sleeves.
But a similar fixation on detail has been the fundament of British menswear since Beau Brummell first went to his military tailor in 1790-something and said, “I want you to make me this.” Richard James’ presentation on Tuesday (left) made it quite clear that he is Throup’s diametric opposite, but maybe they’d recognize the subversion in each other. James is dressing men of power and industry (David Cameron, the prime minister, wore a James suit at his Downing Street reception for the men’s collections) but the press notes for his Fall presentation quoted lyrics from the Small Faces’ acid fantasy “Itchycoo Park.” Yes, the collection was inspired by London’s parks, but Itchycoo was a very special one. It’s always been part of James’ charm that he insinuates left-field references into his work. Here, there was tailoring in the blue of sky, the green of grass, the maroon of a Kray’s night out—not quite psychedelic, but bright nonetheless. And he had the best front row of the week: Magic Mike‘s Alex Pettyfer, The Hobbit‘s Martin Freeman, Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes, and everyone’s Tinie Tempah. Now there’s a dinner party. And that’s London now.
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).
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, www.queensofiasi.org.