Thursday, 2 February 2017

The King of Couture

“Cristóbal Balenciaga was one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century. Revered by his contemporaries, including Coco Chanel and Hubert de Givenchy, his exquisite craftsmanship, pioneering use of fabric and innovative cutting set the tone for the modernity of the late 20th century fashion."

Thus, curator Cassie Davies-Strodder announced the V&A's new summer exhibition dedicated to the art and technique of one of the greatest couturiers of the 20th century and (coincidentally, in the week we are counting down to our holiday in Benalmadena) Spain's most influential fashion designer. He was described as as "the master of us all" by Christian Dior [with whom he shares a birthday] and as "the only couturier in the truest sense of the word" by Coco Chanel.

Señor Balenciaga was born in the Basque country. Even as a teenager, however, his skills in tailoring were recognised by influential patrons, and with their assistance he moved away to study in Madrid. By the time he was in his twenties his clothes were being worn by members of the aristocracy and even royalty. In his day he dressed some of the most beautiful and most photographed women in the world such as Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Grace Kelly, Barbara Hutton, Ava Gardner and Queen Fabiola of Belgium, yet he inevitably favoured unattractive older women as his models so as not to distract from his clothes.

Notoriously private about his affairs, in his entire career Balenciaga only ever granted one interview with the press. In 1948 he almost quit the business when his lover the milliner Vladzio Zawrorowski d'Attainville died, but in the end carried on until 1968, when he closed his salons. He went on to teach and inspire such luminaries as Oscar de la Renta, André Courrèges and Emanuel Ungaro - and Hubert de Givenchy remains today the honorary patron of the Balenciaga Foundation and Museum.

We are looking forward immensely to this exhibition...

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion will open at the Victoria & Albert Museum on 27th May 2017.


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