Until recently I haven’t been greatly interested in couture fashion but a combination of movies about fashion designers at MIFF over the years and exhibitions at the NGV have awakened my latent fashion sensibility! This provided a timely coffee break for the driver on the way North and was interesting. As the title says it was both about Balenciaga himself and those he influenced. Christóbal (love the name) cut a dashing figure.
We are told that his clothes were characterised by their sculptural quality, deft manipulation of textiles and dramatic use of colour and texture. Apparently fellow designers call him the Master. His works on display here come from the V&A and are from the 1950s and 60s. Here is a classic Balenciaga suit from 1954 with a stand-away collar, three-quarter length sleeves and a relaxed waistline (in contrast to Dior’s New Look).
He was known for his loose fitting clothes – again as distinct from the pinched waistlines favoured by Dior. His sack dress caused a sensation. I’m not sure whether this is the actual one, but it clearly fits the bill.
Despite the flowing look of some dresses they were very structured, even including internal stiff corsets like this tulip dress. Seen from the back it includes a large bow reminiscent of Japanese kimono.
Apparently this dress which was inspired by the balloon skirts of the women of Ibiza who look like clouds walking includes ties which knot above the knee lifting and ballooning the hem. Must have been a bit of a chore getting into and out of, but, hey that’s what we do for fashion!
I really loved this beautiful cocktail dress; unlike some of the others, very form-fitting. Exquisite fabric which was commissioned by Balenciaga based on brightly coloured, floral embroidery of Manila shawls … often worn by flamenco dancers.
The second half of the exhibition was devoted to the work of designers influenced by Balenciaga. Here is a jacket and skirt from 2002 by the Belgian designer Dries van Noten about whom I’ve seen a documentary (one of my MIFF fashion movies). It’s not immediately apparent what his debt to Balenciaga is; the note merely states he wants to do his own thing!
Balenciaga’s influence continues to those who have learned from Balenciaga’s own disciples. Issey Miyake worked with Givenchy and this dress has a similar flow to some of the Master’s own creations (though I suspect without the use of weights).
There were a few more like that but I think the link to Balenciaga is a bit tenuous. Don’t all designers pick and choose from a whole range of sources including their forerunners?
Anyway I’ll finish with a couple more photos of his own work. It was quite hard to photograph, being behind glass and therefore reflecting people passing by. And our visit was a short one. But stimulating all the same.