- Danielle Wightman-Stone |
The Museum of Lace and Fashion in Calais, France has opened a retrospective on Hubert de Givenchy, curated by the 90-year-old fashion designer, featuring looks worn by the likes of Audrey Hepburn, former First Lady Jackie Kennedy and the Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson.
The exhibition is part of the museum’s 2017 cultural programme and features eighty outfits and accessories that have been sourced from private collectors, the archives of the House of Givenchy and museum collections, as well as Givenchy pieces held by the Museum of Lace and Fashion.
Everything in the exhibition, which runs until December 31, has been chosen and curated by de Givenchy himself, to showcase the couturier's entire career and the “encounters” that marked his life and shaped his designs.
There is a focus on the leading ladies that wore his collections, including actress Audrey Hepburn, with a number of display cases dedicated to her, showcasing the dresses worn by the star in two of her greatest film roles Breakfast at Tiffany’s and How to Steal a Million.
Museum of Lace and Fashion opens Givenchy exhibition
There are also dresses worn by his other famous clientele on display including Jackie Kennedy’s embroidered dress and opera coat worn for her husband’s first presidential visit to France and the Duchess of Windsor’s outfit worn to the funeral of her husband, as well as pieces worn by Countess Isabelle de Borchgrave d'Altena, the Duchess of Cadaval, and the Marquesa de Llanzol.
Speaking at the opening, to The Guardian the designer praised his clients, he said: “They were my friends. The perfect dress can make many things happen in a woman’s life. It can bring happiness. It is so nice to give happiness to your friends.”
Other key pieces includes the ‘Bettina’ blouse from his first collection in February 1952, which features puff sleeves and black broderie Anglaise, a number of ball gowns featuring lace embroidery, a red satin dress and coat, and an embroidered trouser suit.
The outfits are displays alongside couture textile swatches, archive Givenchy fragrances, and photographs to give insight into de Givenchy’s career and inspirations.
The Museum of Lace and Fashion is located inside a nineteenth-century lace factory and showcases couturiers and renowned young designers including Cristóbal Balenciaga, Anne Valérie Hash, Iris Van Herpen, and On Aura Tout Vu within its contemporary galleries dedicated to design in textiles and fashion.
The Hubert de Givenchy exhibition runs at the Museum for Lace and Fashion in Calais until December 31, 2017.
Images: courtesy of the Museum of Lace and Fashion
- AFP |
Leggy dancers in tight shorts, bottles of Moet champagne and flashy cars feature in Nigerian pop icon Wizkid's bling-bling music videos. But the singer himself has now swapped the Versace T-shirts and low-slung jeans that show his underwear for traditional African dress -- a new youth trend in fashion hub Lagos.
Last year, Vogue voted Wizkid "Nigeria's best-dressed pop singer", a particularly coveted and prestigious title in a country where appearance is all important and competition is fierce.
Clothing that used to be considered only for the old or for people out in the provinces is setting the trend in fashion, from the Yoruba agbada, a large, triple-layered robe worn in the southwest, to the Igbo "Niger Delta" embroidered collarless shirt from the south, and the northern Hausa babariga, a long tunic worn with an embroidered asymmetrical hat.
In recent years, this traditional clothing -- or "trad" as it's dubbed -- can be seen in offices as well as nightclubs, and at weddings and business meetings. "It's the in-thing now," Wizkid told Vogue magazine. "When I'm back home, all I wear is African fabrics. I get material from different parts of Nigeria -- north, west, south -- and I mix it up," said the 26-year-old superstar.
Lack of space in Lagos, a sprawling megacity of 20 million inhabitants, has meant there are few shopping centres and ready-to-wear clothing stores are hard to find. Economic recession and the free fall of the naira currency has put paid to wealthy Nigerians' shopping sprees in Dubai, Paris and Milan. Instead, they've had to make do with what's on offer locally, sending the popularity of roadside tailors soaring.
'Trad is swag'
In 2012, Omobolaji Ademosu, known as B.J., left his job in a bank to set up his own line of men's clothing, Pro7ven. In two tiny workshops in Ojodu, on the outskirts of Lagos, his dozen employees cut, sew and iron a series of orders to the sound of a diesel generator.
B.J. calls his style "African contemporary". His work includes magnificent made-to-measure agbadas with embroidered collars, which can sell for up to 150,000 naira ($475, 420 euros) each. "Trad is swag," smiled B.J.
"Any day, I can switch from Yoruba to Igbo to Fulani, I'm rocking it! It's the Lagos spirit, there is no barrier, we are one." When attending professional meetings in business and politics, dressing in the ethnic outfit of your host is a sign of respect that can really pay off -- or at least win big contracts.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's election campaign in 2015, for example, featured him in a variety of traditional outfits from across the country. With more than 500 ethnic groups, Nigeria is able to draw from a huge catalogue of fabrics, styles and jewellery. The beauty of each ethnic look is a source of pride, which has begun to extend beyond Nigeria's borders.
In early May, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, a spokesman for South Africa's Economic Freedom Fighters party, posted a picture of himself on Instagram, dressed in a dark "Niger Delta" outfit, complete with wide-brimmed hat and gemstone necklace. His numerous and enthusiastic female fans were quick to comment with emoji hearts, affectionately calling him "Igwe" -- an Igbo prince.
Retained 'African pride'
"Even in Paris, young people from the diaspora want to present themselves as African princes now," said Nelly Wandji, owner of MoonLook, an African fashion boutique in the upmarket Rue du Faubourg St-Honore.
"Nigeria is clearly the leader in fashion in terms of style, creativity and number of recognised designers," she said on a recent visit to Lagos. "Lagos Fashion Week has dethroned Johannesburg. Nigerians have remained much more authentic, they have retained 'African pride', whereas South Africa is very Europeanised."
Wandji, who is French of Cameroonian heritage, said the fashion trend was due to the African diaspora, of which Nigerians were the main ambassadors by sheer weight of numbers.
"Young people from the diaspora are the drivers of African fashion, they have reappropriated their culture and made it trendy because it's seen in Europe or the United States," she said.
Gloria Odiaka, a petite woman in her 50s, is the successful owner of a luxury traditional fabric shop in Lekki, a well-heeled Lagos neighbourhood. "The young generation are into native wear and they look gorgeous," she said.
"My sons study in Canada and when I go visit them they say, 'Please, Mommy, buy us some trads, I'm done with Canadian T-shirts'," she said with a laugh. (AFP)
Photo Credit: Pius Utomi Ekpei / AFP
- Danielle Wightman-Stone |
The Zac Posen documentary, House of Z, which made its world premiere in April at Tribeca, has been acquired by Conde Nast Entertainment and will be distributed to rent on Vogue.com.
Directed by Sandy Chronopoulos, the fashion feature-length film chronicles the fashion career of Zac Posen, starting from his meteoric rise at the age of 21 to the glamour behind one of New York’s most distinguished brands.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Conde Nast Entertainment will distribute House of Z exclusively for rent on Vogue.com in September to coincide with New York Fashion Week.
“We see [Vogue.com] as the perfect fit for our audience while also giving us a chance to attract new viewers,” Dawn Ostroff, president of Condé Nast Entertainment told the Hollywood Reporter. “House of Z is a wonderful film and being able to exclusively provide it to our audience is a great opportunity for Condé Nast and we are very pleased to be working with Zac, Sandy and the iDeal team.”
The documentary showcases the ups and downs of his fashion label through archival material and interviews with Posen’s past and present team, as well as critics, journalists, fashion insiders and celebrities, such as André Leon Talley, Paz de la Huerta, Naomi Campbell, Claire Danes, and Sean “Diddy” Combs.
- Danielle Wightman-Stone |
Christie’s in London will auction off pieces from Audrey Hepburn’s “extensive personal wardrobe” including fashion that exemplifies her signature look include a Burberry trench coat, ballet flats, and a dress designed by Hubert de Givenchy.
The collection currently under ownership of the Hepburn family will go on auction at Christie’s in London on September 27, alongside an online sale which will be open for bidding from September 19 until October 3.
“We are thrilled to have been entrusted with the sale of items from Audrey Hepburn’s personal collection,” said Adrian Hume-Sayer, director, private collections at Christie’s. “Her name is one that instantly resonates; her appeal and relevance remain as strong today as they ever were.”
Hume-Sayer added: “The sales will offer fans and collectors alike the opportunity to acquire unique personal objects which have never before been seen on the market and which will undoubtedly offer new insights into the remarkable life of a remarkable woman.”
The highlighted fashion piece to be featured in the auction is a blue satin Givenchy cocktail dress worn by the actress and fashion icon, which was featured in a photo shoot photographed by William Klein for a fashion editorial promoting Two for the Road in 1966. The dress has a starting estimate of between 10,000-15,000 pounds.
Audrey Hepburn fashion including a Givenchy dress to be auctioned
In December 2006 a black satin evening gown, designed by Hubert de Givenchy for Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, was sold at Christie’s South Kensington for 456,200 pounds. The dress, which had a pre-sale estimate of 50,000-70,000 pounds, set a new world record for an item associated with the star.
Other pieces in the auction includes photography from the actress’ personal archive including portraits by Bud Fraker, who was a stills photographer for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and wardrobe photographs for My Fair Lady together with personal portraits by Cecil Beaton, and dedicated prints of Hepburn for Vanity Fair by fashion photographer Steven Meisel.
The auction also features film memorabilia including Hepburn’s working scripts from Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Charade.
Estimates for the auction starts at 100 pounds and range up to 80,000 pounds. The collection will also be on view to the public in an exhibition at Christie’s King Street, London from September 23.
Image: courtesy of Christie’s - Bud Fraker (1916-2002), Audrey Hepburn, circa 1957
- Don-Alvin Adegeest |
A new documentary has exposed the harsh reality and often cruel suffering of factory workers who make the garments of some of the world's best-known high street brands.
The film, called Machines, highlights the life of Jain, a factory worker in India. In the first 13 minutes of the film, there is no dialogue, with the camera captures the contrast between the giant machines, which guzzle up fabrics like robots, and then the workers who are no less mechanical in their working as they mix dyes, stoke furnaces and handle the fabrics.
Days are filled with dehumanising physical labour and hardship
Director Rahul Jain takes the viewers into the reality of the factory worker's world, capturing the exhaustive monotony of their tasks. The film examines the dehumanizing physical labor and hardship in the factory, exposes the pre-industrial working conditions and the huge divide between first world and developing countries. Though “Machines” only portrays one of these factories, it also represents the thousands of laborers as well.
When there is dialogue, we hear from the workers themselves – and at one point from their fat-cat boss, who matter-of-factly tells the camera that he shouldn’t pay them so well as they’re much more dedicated to the business when their bellies are empty. By “so well” he means three US dollars per 12-hour shift and most of the workers take just one hour’s break between shifts, such are the financial pressures of providing for their families, states Dazed & Confused. The men discuss the need for unionisation and strike action, as well as the dead-end any attempt at this inevitably leads to – “the bosses just ask who the leader is, and then kills them,” the viewer is told.
Delhi-born, U.S.-educated director Rahul Jain captured the footage in Gujarat, India’s westernmost state. According to Variety, the results are surprising; while the visuals are hypnotic and frequently beautiful, the stories jar with our concepts of poverty in the modern age, as it is revealed that many of these workers are already in debt, having taken out travel loans to work 12-hour shifts and earn wages of just 7,000 rupees (approximately 100 Us dollars) per month.
Photo credit: Film still from Machines
- Danielle Wightman-Stone |
The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London is collaborating with Google as part of its ‘We Wear Culture’ project to unlock its fashion collections online with a new virtual experience.
The V&A is joining more than 180 cultural institutes around the world from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Palace of Versailles to create the largest ever virtual exhibition of style that uses state-of-the-art technology to allow viewers to explore 3,000 years of world fashion and discover the stories behind the clothes we wear today.
As part of the project, a 1990 Vivienne Westwood corset from the V&A’s collection has been reimagined in virtual reality for the first time. This new interpretation of the corset celebrates Westwood’s unique take on one of the most controversial garments in history in a 360° film that examines the corset’s place within fashion history and discusses its design, which encompasses a painting by French artist François Boucher, to explore the inextricable links between fashion and art.
Kati Price, head of digital at the V&A, said: “We are constantly exploring how new technologies can help bring the V&A’s unrivalled fashion collection to life online. Online visitors can now see the incredible detail of highlights from the Museum’s collection, while discovering the tantalising stories behind them in ways never experienced before.
“Through these revelatory online experiences and exhibitions, we hope viewers will gain a greater understanding of the craftsmanship and design expertise that transforms fashionable clothing into pieces of art.”
The V&A’s fashion collection is one of the most comprehensive collections in the world spanning five centuries and includes 17th century gowns, 18th century mantua dresses, 1930s eveningwear, 1960s daywear and post-war couture, including designs by Charles James, Christian Dior and Cristóbal Balenciaga, as well as pieces from the likes of Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Rei Kawakubo and more than 5,000 objects from its collections are now accessible through the ‘We Wear Culture’ platform.
V&A joins Google’s ‘We Wear Culture’ virtual experience project
To make the collections part of the Google project, the technology giant used four ultra-high resolution ‘gigapixel’ images taken by the Google Art Camera to reveal highlights from the V&A collection that have been hidden to the naked eye until now. Viewers can now zoom in at the stitches of an 18th century Dragon Robe worn by a Qing Dynasty emperor or get close to a 1937 Elsa Schiaparelli evening coat to explore the connection between fashion and Surrealist art or even investigate the Arts and Crafts movement through a 1895-1900 Marshall and Snelgrove evening coat, as well as consider the unprecedented luxury of British court life through a mantua robe dating to 1755-60.
The V&A has also created eight bespoke online exhibitions for the project, featuring photography, video content and commentary, these include: Gallery of Fashion, which traces five centuries of fashion at the V&A; The Politics of Fashion, a survey of 18th century British court style; V&A Fashion in Motion, showcasing the Museum’s most memorable live catwalk shows, including Alexander McQueen (1999) and Yohji Yamamoto (2011); and Schiaparelli and Surrealism investigating the artistic genius of Elsa Schiaparelli and how the designer transformed fashion.
Amit Sood, director of Google Arts & Culture, added: “We invite everyone to browse the exhibition on their phones or laptops and learn about the stories behind what you wear. You might be surprised to find out that your jeans or the black dress in your wardrobe have a centuries-old story. What you wear is true culture and more often than not a piece of art.”
The ‘We Wear Culture’ platform is available online and through the Google Arts and Culture app on iOS and Android.
Images: courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum/Google
- Danielle Wightman-Stone |
The Fashion and Textile Museum in London has opened a retrospective on Anna Sui, marking the first time a living American fashion designer has been the focus of a retrospective in the UK.
‘The World of Anna Sui’ features more than 120 mannequins dressed in designs by New York-based designer Sui exploring the “glamorous and eclectic world’s of one of America’s most accomplished designers” said the museum.
The exhibition is grouped into Sui’s archetypes ranging from the rock star and the schoolgirl, to punks, nomads, and surfers, all motifs that are featured in her work. Designs on display include styles such as the exuberant Carnaby Street, schoolgirl outfits worn by supermodels Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell in her first runway show in 1991, to the cowboys and cheerleaders modelled by Gigi and Bella Hadid during the recent spring/summer 2017 Americana-themed collection.
Dennis Nothdruft, curator of ‘The World of Anna Sui’ said: “Anna Sui helped define the look of Generation X. As young creatives rediscover and reference the 1990s, it is time to explore the original designs in a critical context.
“Through ‘The World of Anna Sui’, we hope to highlight a fresh cultural perspective on the so-called ‘slacker’ generation. The exhibition will showcase a fashion designer who, contrary to the stereotype, is not only highly creative and entrepreneurial but also playful and positive.”
The influence of music is seen throughout from the designer’s continuing love of Bohemian chic to her iconic 1994 grunge collections including the infamous organza baby-doll dresses. Anna Sui says of this time, “It was my moment. If grunge music was an alternative to stadium rock, the kind of clothes I designed were my alternative to power dressing.”
Fashion and Textile Museum opens Anna Sui retrospective
As well as showcasing the designer’s most iconic designs including an iconic babydoll dress with rose print, styled with a hat, ripped fishnets and multiple chokers, the exhibition also explores her design processes through moodboards, photographs, sketches, and runway shots. There is also a section documenting her long-term creative collaborations with models such as Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell, as well as with make-up artist Pat McGrath, jeweller Erickson Beamon and knitwear designer and milliner James Coviello.
Other rooms in the exhibition show a recreation of the designer’s New York shop to give a sense of Sui’s distinctive interiors and design style, as the shop features red stained floors, tiffany lamps, purple walls, ornate black mirrors, black lacquered furniture and Aubrey Beardsley prints that represents her punky thrift-store design aesthetic.
There’s also a section dedicated to her inspirations while she was growing up in Detroit, which range from Ossie Clark to William Morris, as well as one dedicated to her life in the Big Apple, as Sui moved to New York to study fashion at the The New School’s Parsons School of Design and opened her first store there in 1991. While another focuses on her use of layering and mixing of patterns, texture and colours, including graphic textiles created with Ascher Studio, Zandra Rhodes, Jeffrey Fulvimari and Barbara Hulanicki.
Celia Joicey, head of the Fashion and Textile Museum, added: “Anna Sui is one of the most important and influential American designers of the past twenty-five years. We are delighted to be the first museum in the UK to offer a US fashion designer a retrospective exhibition.
“Sui is an inspirational woman whose designs embrace the history of American pop culture and popular art movements, and thereby offer a fascinating way to explore national identity through fashion and textiles.”
The World of Anna Sui is at London’s Fashion and Textile museum until October 1, 2017.
Images: courtesy of the Fashion and Textile Museum
- AFP |
They dress like celebrities and can increasingly be spotted on the world's catwalks and red carpets. Meet the "influencers", the most famous people you've never heard of.
For 70 years, the Cannes film festival has been a key event on any A-lister's calendar. But move over Nicole Kidman, there's a new breed of star in town: social media personalities invited purely on the grounds of their huge Instagram or YouTube followings.
Sharing the red carpet with Kidman and Will Smith this week have been beauty bloggers like 17-year-old Amanda Steele (2.8 million YouTube subscribers) and Swiss Instagrammer Kristina Bazan (2.4 million followers).
Maja Malnar, who makes a living from her blog and 264,000-strong Instagram following, admits she's struggled to explain her job as a "social media influencer" to her mother back in Slovenia.
Years ago she started posting snaps of her daily outfits on the photo app and blogging about her travels. These days she's part of a growing industry known as "influencer marketing", whereby brands seek to harness the power of powerful web-users by slipping their products into their posts. "It's a good business, I can't complain," Malnar told AFP.
The petite blonde, who is in her twenties but declined to give her age, is set to walk the red carpet Friday in a tie-up with MasterCard and the designer who provided her dress. She'll then have to post about it.
"We're entrepreneurs. We saw a gap in the market and we capitalised on it," says her friend Lorna Andrews, a British ex-air hostess who modestly calls herself a "mid-tier influencer" with 464,000 Instagram followers.
Cannes is no stranger to those famous for being famous -- socialites like Paris Hilton have been turning up for years -- and brands have long recognised the festival's power as a marketing opportunity.
Top-end labels and jewellers have for decades dressed the stars for free at Cannes, knowing they will be snapped there by the waiting paparazzi.
But the arrival of the "influencer" at the world's biggest film festival -- and at international fashion weeks -- is a new phenomenon.
Ordinary Janes and Joes
About 18 months ago Edouard Hausseguy, a 27-year-old Frenchman, realised the money-making potential of people whose photos, restaurant tips and beauty tutorials are followed by millions online, even though most would not recognise them on the street.
He set up his agency Hemblem to represent anyone with a following of 30,000 and up -- negotiating deals with brands, and then taking a cut.
"Those people are people like us, but they speak to millions of people with one picture," he told AFP in an interview on a yacht moored at Cannes, where he's hoping his influencers will benefit from the presence of top brands and the media.
For the festival, Hemblem has filled a villa with influencers who are splitting their time between glamorous events and furiously posting online, whether it's about designer labels or a charity for Syrian children.
Co-founder Thomas Elliott said brands were catching on to the power of a recommendation from Instagrammers to shift products from the shelves. "Jane next door or Joe next door is probably better for product placement, as people can identify with these people," he said.
It's possible to get paid for a single post -- "the fee depends on the size of the following", said Joe Gagliese, co-founder of Viral Nation, a rival agency based in Toronto.
"It could be $100,000 if you have over five million followers."
Compare and despair
With 13 million followers apiece, supermodels Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski rank as the true Instagram queens of Cannes.
Their accounts offer red carpet glamour and a peek behind the scenes, like Hadid sipping champagne while preparing for a premiere. Partner brands are carefully name-checked: make-up by Dior, jewellery by Bulgari.
Further down the food-chain, posts by smaller fish in the "influencer" pond still tell of a life of cocktails and beautiful clothes -- but the reality may be a little less glamorous.
There are constant worries of where the next event or brand tie-up might come from, and some re-sell the clothes they are gifted to make ends meet. And behind the glitz there is a constant pressure to post that Andrews and Malnar say can be stressful.
Neither expects to do this job forever. Women aged 18-30 make up the bulk of their followings, and unless these shift there'll come a day when they won't match their young demographic.
Youngsters' heavy use of Instagram is a worry for mental health experts, who warn these glimpses into the glamorous lives of others encourage depression and anxiety by prompting a "compare and despair" attitude.
There's a constant stream of appreciative comments under posts by Hadid and Ratajkowski, but also wistful ones.
Under a video of Hadid wearing custom Roberto Cavalli, one user sighed: "Can I just be her for one day?" (APF).
Homepage photo: Swiss blogger Kristina Bazan poses as she arrives on May 22, 2017 for the screening of the film 'The Killing of a Sacred Deer' at the 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. - Credit: Valery HACHE / AFP
- Danielle Wightman-Stone |
London’s Design Museum is paying tribute to Louis Cartier, his unique story and his approach to watchmaking and how the invention of the modern wristwatch came about in a new exhibition, Cartier in Motion that will run until July.
The free exhibition is curated by British architect Lord Norman Foster and explores the creativity of Cartier and design featuring more than 170 exhibits alongside rare insights into the research and work of the designers at Cartier, through extracts from material found in the Cartier Archives, as well as exploring the change in society at the turn of the 20th century, which was amidst upheavals in art, architecture, travel and lifestyles.
Key highlights includes the evolution of Paris and its influence on Cartier shapes, Louis Cartier’s connections with Alberto Santos-Dumont and other pioneers of the age, the birth of the modern wristwatch, as well as the everyday accessories designed to cater to a glamorous inter-war lifestyle and the evolution of Cartier watch designs and Cartier craftsmanship.
Items on display include a Cartier Santos wristwatch and a Tank wristwatch, which were recently acquired for the Design Museum, as well as extracts from a scrapbook found in the Cartier Archives with insights into the research work of designers at the Maison, and pieces on loan from the collection of the Monaco Princely Palace, the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace at Le Bourget airport and the Rockefeller Center in New York.
Cartier in Motion runs from May 25 until July 28.
Images: courtsey of Cartier
- Danielle Wightman-Stone |
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has launched its latest fashion exhibition dedicated to Cristóbal Balenciaga and the continuing influence of the Spanish designer on the current fashion industry, to coincide with the centenary of the fashion house’s opening in San Sebastian and the 80th anniversary of his move to Paris.
Showcasing more than 100 garments and 20 hats, many of which haven’t been on public display before, the Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion exhibition aims to put a spotlight on the innovation and design details of Cristóbal Balenciaga, and starts with a quote from Dior, who said: “Haute couture is like an orchestra whose conductor is Balenciaga. We other couturiers are the musicians and we follow the direction he gives.”
This exhibition is less of a full retrospective of the designer’s work, instead Shaping Fashion focuses on the latter part of his career in the 1950s and 1960s, which the museum describes as his “most creative period”, as it introduced revolutionary shapes including the sack-dress, babydoll frocks, the tunic, and the shirt dress that all remain style staples today. With other highlights including the one-seam coat, the tie-on skirt that could be worn as a cape and the long puffball evening dresses.
“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,” said Cassie Davies-Strodder, V&A exhibition curator. “The exhibition shows his lasting impact on fashion through the work of those who trained with him and through recent garments designers including Molly Goddard, Demna Gvasalia and J.W. Anderson who reflect the legacy of the his vision today.”
Shaping Fashion is organised into three sections, ‘Front of House’ which includes Balenciaga’s salons, behind the scenes in Balenciaga’s ‘Workrooms’ and the lasting impact of ‘Balenciaga’s Legacy’ which features more than 30 designers of the last 50 years tracing the influence of the revered fashion designer including minimalistic designs by his former apprentices André Courrèges and Emanuel Ungaro, as well as the perfectionism and attention to detail of the glamorous eveningwear by Hubert de Givenchy, who the designer acted as a mentor for after meeting in 1955.
It was this Legacy section that seemed to dominate the exhibition, it has more space as it is in the lighter, airy setting of the top fashion gallery, rather than the majority of the Balenciaga pieces that were place behind glass display cases with very low-lighting, required to show delicate fabrics, but making it difficult to see the exquisitely crafted pieces.
Here there were designs from contemporary designers split into five areas of Balenciaga’s influence: Minimalism; Perfectionism; Innovative Pattern-Cutting; Shape and Volume; and New Materials. Highlights included Hussein Chalayan’s ruffled pod dress, Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons pink polyurethane leather architectural dress, Molly Goddard’s babydoll frock, Paco Rabanne’s space-age mini with plastic pailettes, and even pieces by Demna Gvasalia, current creative director of the house, including an off-the-shoulder ski jacket that has been created entirely through pattern-cutting from inspiration from Balenciaga’s coats with open, push-back necklines.
V&A opens new fashion exhibition examining the influence of Cristóbal Balenciaga
The most interesting section of this exhibition has to be the making of the Balenciaga pieces, getting an insight into the designer’s creative thought process as well as the way he constructed the pieces, with a look at key concepts such his love of architectural shapes, his obsession with sleeves and how his collections all started with textiles with him quoted as saying: “It is the fabric that decides”.
To highlight Balenciaga’s attention to detail, the V&A has also used x-ray technology for the first time to take a forensic look at the hidden details inside his garments. The x-ray images displayed alongside the dresses were captured by Nick Veasey who created the world’s first mobile x-ray art studio to create the life-sized x-ray images. The innovative technique sheds new light on the designers exquisite craftsmanship such as the curious leg-ties within the 1954 balloon hem dress that shows subtle internal hooping to support the garment's many swathes of fabric, while an x-ray of a 1967 cape dress made from a single piece of silk gazar for socialite Gloria Guinness, unearths strategically placed weights at the front of the dress that determine its abstract, architectural hang.
Commenting on the use of the technology alongside the fashion, Nick Veasey, said: “X-ray is an honest process. It has integrity. It shows how well things are made or not, revealing previously hidden internal details.
“The collaboration with the V&A gave me access to stunning couture garments made by ‘The Master’ of fashion. The results, I am pleased to say are beguilingly beautiful as befits these iconic examples of historic fashion.”
Davies-Strodder, added: “Showing garments, that are intended to be worn and touched, on static mannequins and behind glass is always challenging. Displaying Balenciaga’s work is a particular challenge as the exceptional craftsmanship is often in the details you cannot see.
“The beautiful x-ray images Nick has created enable us to show, at a glance, those hidden details which make his work so special. They have given us a greater understanding of these exquisite pieces in our collection, and shed new light on Balenciaga’s mastery and technique.”
Other highlights 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 ballgowns to gardening shorts from the couturier.
Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion, sponsored by American Express, is at the V&A from May 27 May – February 18, 2018.
Read also: Timeline - 100 years of Balenciaga
Images: courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London and Nick Veasey