The V&A has written the mother of all love songs to Cristóbal Balenciaga (1895-1972), and it’s one that will have you swooning over the Spanish fashion designer, too.
The ground floor is dedicated to his craftsmanship, and will have fashion nerds in their element. Nick Veasey’s x-ray photography has been put to good use revealing how the designer’s deceptively simple work was actually incredibly intricate, with weights ensuring that skirts hang just so, and corsets hidden beneath swathes of fabric. From the off you can see just how driven and forward-thinking his design was; bold, architectural and Kermit green, the caped dress from 1961 that opens the exhibition could very easily be a modern piece of Comme des Garçons.
Lovingly curated, it’s clear that the V&A want you to love Balenciaga as much as they do, and so have been at pains to prove just how ingenious the man was. Enlisting the help of students from the London College of Fashion to digitize his work, there are animations which show the intricacy of his pattern cutting. In addition, there’s a replica of his iconic cape-cum-skirt which you get to try on – it’ll do wonders for your social media feed.
The upper floor is dedicated to his legacy and how he has shaped fashion. You can see his influence in the clever use of fabric in Simone Rocha’s embroidered vinyl coat-dress which references the incredible Balenciaga pink evening-coat, embellished with vibrant plastic discs on the lower floor. Or the babydoll dress from superlatively great Molly Goddard, which clearly has its starting point downstairs, with the master and his rejection of the waist.
As Christian Dior said, ‘Haute couture is like an orchestra whose conductor is Balenciaga’. This exhibition shows that the fashion world is still playing to his tune.