Cudoni recently visited the V&A to explore the “Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion” exhibition. Open until February 2018, the exhibition marks 100 years since the opening of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s first fashion house in San Sebastian, and 80 years since the opening of his Parisian fashion house.
Highly revered by contemporaries, Christian Dior called Balenciaga “the Master of us all”.
Having found ourselves particularly mesmerised by Cristóbal Balenciaga’s intriguingly unique designs, we were inspired to publish our very own Balenciaga series. Cudoni’s journey through the history of the iconic fashion brand.
Born with an eye for perfection, Balenciaga was unusually attentive. Having initially trained as a tailor, he used clever pattern-cutting to ensure sleeves, waists and seams were crafted with precision. Always scrutinising and studying pieces to ensure the highest standards. At the most minuscule mistake, an entire piece would be torn apart.
His relationship with fabrics allowed for the creation of iconic and original designs. Balenciaga would also choose his luxurious fabrics first, and design the garments second. In a sense, working in reverse. As Elsa Schiaparelli suggested Balenciaga was “the only designer who dares to do what he wants”.
At first glance, his designs sometimes appeared simplistic, often produced from a single piece of fabric or without the popular and slender female silhouette of the era. However, a number of x-rays displayed in the exhibition reveal a more intricate boned and corseted techniques on a couple of interesting garments.
Salon shows embodied and showcased Balenciaga’s intriguingly alternative character. He refused to name his clothes, would always remain behind a curtain during the show, and refused to bow at the end, unlike most other couturiers. This, he believed, allowed the clothes to speak for themselves. He was also incredibly concerned by the possibility of his ideas and designs being stolen, leading him to ban all press from his initial showings and insist that all journalists waited a month before publishing any designs.
He was an architectural genius, a master of abstract manipulation, creating incredibly original designs such as the above garment, coined the “caterpillar”, the iconic “envelope” and the fascinating “cabbage”.
Balenciaga’s designs were unapologetically unique. Notably impractical, but effortlessly desirable.