Login

From the 27th May, the V&A will open the first ever UK exhibition exploring the work of Cristóbal Balenciaga and his continuing influence on modern fashion. It will be the first of its kind to look at his unique approach to his craft and will showcase pieces by his protégés and contemporary designers working in the same innovative way today. The exhibition is timely as it marks the centenary of the opening of Balenciaga’s first fashion house in San Sebastian and the 80th anniversary of the opening of his famous fashion house in Paris.

Bolero jacket, velvet with felt and velvet appliqué and beading, Balenciaga for EISA, Spain, 1947
© Museo Cristóbal Balenciaga

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion will focus on the latter part of Balenciaga’s long career in the 1950s and 1960s, arguably one of his most creative periods. It was during these years that he not only dressed some of the most renowned women of the time, but also introduced revolutionary shapes including the tunic, the sack, ‘baby doll’ and shift dress – all of which remain style staples today. Highlights will include ensembles made by Balenciaga for Hollywood actress Ava Gardner, dresses and hats belonging to socialite and 1960s fashion icon Gloria Guinness, and pieces worn by one of the world’s wealthiest women, Mona von Bismarck, who commissioned everything from ball-gowns to gardening shorts from the couturier.

On display will be over 100 garments and 20 hats, many of which have never been on public display before. These will be accompanied by archive sketches, patterns, photographs, fabric samples and catwalk footage revealing Balenciaga’s uncompromising creativity. In addition x- rays, animated patterns and short films on couture-making processes will uncover the hidden details that made his work so exceptional. The exhibition will draw mostly on the V&A’s fashion holdings – the largest collection of Balenciaga in the UK. The collection was initiated for the Museum by Cecil Beaton in the 1970s.

File_1877, 12/18/08, 1:23 PM, 16C, 6000×7531 (0+60), 100%, Custom, 1/25 s, R27.7, G9.6, B35.5
Fashion Book Engraver Crop

For the first time the V&A has used x-ray technology to take a forensic look at the hidden details inside Balenciaga’s garments. These images, made with x-ray artist Nick Veasey, show structures invisible to the naked eye, including dress weights strategically placed to determine the exact hang of the skirt in one of Balenciaga’s most minimal designs, and boning in dress bodices, dispelling the myth that he did not use such structures. In partnership with London College of Fashion, UAL, pattern cutting students have taken patterns from some of the most iconic Balenciaga garments in the V&A’s collection. These have been digitised and animated to show how these building blocks come together to form the finished piece. In a number of cases, the patterns reveal that the main body of the garment has been crafted from one single piece of fabric, demonstrating Balenciaga’s mastery of materials. Three of these animations will be displayed alongside Balenciaga’s original garments to give a deeper understanding of each.

Evening dress, silk taffeta, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Paris, 1954
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The exhibition will be organised around three main sections: ‘Front of House’, including Balenciaga’s salons, behind the scenes in Balenciaga’s ‘Workrooms’ and the lasting impact of ‘Balenciaga’s Legacy’. The Balenciaga brand still references its founder today, yet his influence spreads far wider. The ‘Legacy’ section will feature the work of over 30 designers of the last 50 years tracing the influence of this most revered figure in fashion right up to the present day. Themes include an exploration of his minimalist aesthetic reflected in the work of his former apprentices André Courrèges and Emanuel Ungaro, and more recently revived by designers such as Phoebe Philo for Celine and in the strong lines of J.W. Anderson. Balenciaga’s perfectionism and attention to detail are reflected in the work of Hubert de Givenchy and Erdem. His pattern cutting and explorations of volume can be seen in the work of Molly Goddard and Demna Gvasalia, while his creative use of new materials is referenced in the work of former Balenciaga creative director Nicolas Ghesquière.

Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908 – 2004)
Cristóbal Balenciaga at work, Paris, 1968
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos
Culture & Events
Share your story:
Contact your Insignia personal assistant for details
Related articles
Culture & Events
7 months ago
How is the one per cent preparing for a second wave of COVID-19?
As the coronavirus continues on its destructive path, it is becoming increasingly clear that nations around the world were ill-equipped to deal with the pandemic. Everyone is now asking the same question ‘What do we need...
7 months ago
From Burning Man to Coachella: All the Music Festivals that you should be looking forward to in 2021
Festivals are life-changing experiences powerful enough to change the worldviews of hedonists who attend them, whether you’re a dedicated bohemian or a jaded workaholic who needs to let loose, festivals deliver memories that...
7 months ago
The Best Luxury Concierge Services in Europe 2020
Insignia is delighted to announce winning The Best Luxury Concierge Services in Europe award at the Luxury Lifestyle Awards The LLAs selects, recognises, and celebrates promoting the best luxury goods and services from...
9 months ago
Harvest a Culture of Kindness to Drive Your Business Forward in the midst of a Global Pandemic
Luxury brands are utilising their production facilities to help combat COVID-19, from manufacturing surgical masks and gowns to feeding the vulnerable and providing mental health support to their employees. The luxury...
10 months ago
Veblen goods and the currency of social status
“In order to gain and to hold the esteem of men, wealth must be put in evidence.” This was the contention of Thorstein Veblen, who in 1899 first identified the concepts of status-seeking through conspicuous consumption (even...
10 months ago
The Intrinsic Value of Art
The art market is notoriously difficult to navigate. Here are the main things to consider when art-appraising. Trying to determine the value of art is a little like opening Pandora’s Box. The simple, one question route of art...
1 year ago
The Best Festive Parties
You’ll no doubt be engorging in sweet treats over the festive period, even more reason then to burn off those calories at our selection of the best Christmas parties. GLITTERBOX, LONDON  BEST FOR UNDERGROUND LOVERS...
1 year ago
The Best Christmas Menus and Hampers
‘Tis the season for gastronomic indulgence, so loosen your belt buckles in anticipation of our picks for the best Christmas menus and hampers. BEST MENUS PARK CHINOIS, MAYFAIR, LONDON Transport yourself to the Golden Age of...
Insignia in the press
'Highly personalised and exclusive services to those who 
want to experience the best life has to offer.'
'Inside the $225,000 Oscars 2020 Gift Bag'
'Move over AmEx, here are by invitiation credit cards that cost $200,000'
'When AmEx Black Just Won't Do: A Gem-encrusted Card for .001%'
'The service is like having an invisible companion'
'British lifestyle management company takes the sting out of travel and daily life elevating it all to a lovely new life form'
'When you're exorbitantly rich, you can afford not to fret over things like your 15th wedding anniversary - at least if you're an Insignia member'
Insignia social