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Victoria & Albert Museum in London

Victoria & Albert Museum in London
By Yoek October 18, 2017 4526 Views

Last week we took one of the early flights to one of world's most visited cities; London! The city definitely has something for everyone; from shopping (splash cash with brilliant bargains or luxurious treasures), to food (from Indian curries to unique cuisines), to fab museums (the classic British Museum to the outstanding Tate Modern). But yeah, as fashion lovers, we actually went straight to the Victoria and Albert Museum, where the exhibition 'Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion' is on at the moment!

Cristóbal Balenciaga was born in 1895 in Getaria, a small fishing village in the northern part of Spain. His mother was a seamstress and therefore he was regularly confronted with fashion. When Cristóbal was only twelve, he started an internship in San Sebastian where he launched his first fashion house ten years later.

Unlike most designers he was skilled in every stage of the tailoring process; from drawing, to cutting, tailoring and dressmaking, all because of his intensive training since he was a child. His early work triggered French couturiers like Coco Chanel, who would became a close friend.

During the Spanish Civil War, in 1937, Balenciaga established a couture house in Paris. He remained in Paris for his entire fifty-year career. But his Spanish heritage definitely influenced his designs, for example the traditions of bull fighting and flamenco dancing; short jackets like the bullfighter’s suit to be worn over full-length evening gowns and flamenco dresses for figure hugging upper parts and flouncing skirts, to exaggerate movement.

Balenciaga started every collection with selecting fabrics. He preferred to experiment, to find out how textiles ‘behaved’ and to create a certain understanding of the materials he worked with. Cristóbal turned out to be the person to introduce this kind of experimenting to the traditional world of haute couture.

His designs were characterized by the innovation and use of different details, like; shapely sleeves, embellishments and lace. Many of his later designs almost had a kind of architectural shape, like flare lantern sleeves which held their shape easily because of the use of innovative fabrics. According to Balenciaga Paris was gifted with a ‘special ambience for fashion’; with a great amount of passionate artisans making haberdashery like flowers, feathers, buttons, luxurious trimmings and other unique embellishments. He worked closely with these dedicated craftsmen, who were pleased to and felt honoured to be recruited by the great master and made designs exclusively for him. Another favourite of Balenciaga was to make use of delicate lace, sometimes for entire garments. He not only used it for occasion or evening wear, but also for daily clothes which was quite outstanding. Balenciaga was not feeling constrained by the body.

In 1968, the fashion house of Balenciaga was closed and only four years later the great designer died, which meant the end of an era. In the very same period, designer ready-to-wear clothes started to dominate the fashion industry. The exhibition not only shows designs by Balenciaga, but also his great legacy, as many great couturiers have been and still are inspired by Cristóbal. Two of his protégées were Oscar de la Renta and Hubert de Givenchy, great designers who worked for Balenciaga and saw the opportunity to launch their own fashion house.

How is it possible we can still admire Balenciaga designs on the catwalk? Twenty years later, Jacques Bogart S.A. obtained the rights to Balenciaga (right now it is the Parisian luxury group Kering). Therefore, the fashion house is still pursuing to keep the influential Spanish Cristóbal Balenciaga alive in vivid collections. You can admire the current collections in their London store (12 Mount st, Mayfair, London).

After visiting the museum, it depends on how much time you have of course, but we went to Hyde Park for a classic lunch at The Grand. Or if it is late afternoon, head to The Wolseley for a drink at the bar and a late night dinner (steak tartare with salad and frites, yummy!).

The fashion exhibition can be visited until Sunday the 18th of February 2018, so start planning your trip if you want to admire the designs yourself! Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL, London, United Kingdom. You can catch a metro from Victoria station to South Kensington station, where you can enter the pedestrian subway and walk straight into the museum.