I recently went to the Balenciaga exhibition, ‘Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion’ at the Victoria & Albert Museum which displayed key pieces of Cristobal Balenciaga’s work and explored how it is still influencing contemporary designers today.  I would not compare myself to the iconic designer, but there were certain approaches and influences of his that resonate with me, and it made me consider my approach to design and what it is that I want to achieve.

I would highly recommend you see the exhibition yourself, but here are some key pieces that caught my eye and got me thinking…

This instantly recognisable dress and cape two-piece is a Balenciaga classic and shows off his incredible understanding of construction.  He was trained as a tailor and understood how to sculpt and manipulate fabrics to create stunning architectural effects.

His silhouettes were very creative and forward thinking, preferring to ‘sculpt’ garments, emulating architectural forms than be restricted to following women’s natural shapes. ‘The volumes are quite incredible for that period’ said Molly Goddard who’s work was exhibited as a contemporary reference.

Here sheer fabric is used in a baby doll shape to combine dramatic volume with femininity, by allowing the silhouette of the body to be seen below the dress.

The elegant ‘La Lulipe’ evening dress is exhibited with an x-ray, showing the detailed internal structure required to support its construction.  This dress is simple and sculptural from the front but turns around to reveal beautiful constructed detailing below the floating outer layer.  It is the unseen corsetry that makes this effect possible.

I just loved this dress, with this bright, beautiful fabric and its clean, structured shape, it could still be on sale today!

And this is a contemporary reworking by Balenciaga of one of Cristobals original capes, showing exactly how timeless his incredible work was – a lasting influence on us all!

See more about the exhibition here – https://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/balenciaga-shaping-fashion