Nove Colette Bronstein - If you're excited by bold sculptural forms and evocative color, then Balenciaga and Spain is for you! This spectacular exhibit on display at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, chronicles highlights from the prolific Spanish fashion designer, Cristobal Balenciaga.
Fashion is a tumultuous stage for creation and has a very short memory. What makes the most profound impression about this exhibit is how many of Balenciaga's creations, from (for example) the 1950's still strike a modern and covet-worthy chord. Echos of these suit, coat, and dress silhouettes created by Balenciaga during his half century contribution are among the most dynamic fashions hitting the runway today.
Cristobal Balenciaga started designing fashion early. In Spain, he first started working at a tailor shop at the age of 13, moving along to apprentice during World War I, and had his own dress shop by 1918. Relocating 3 times within the country he fled Spain for Paris before World War II. His early success in Spain only grew upon his settling in Paris. This location apparently stuck, as 10 Avenue Georges V is now the flagship store in Paris.
He kept his Paris couture house open during the German occupation in Paris when others, like the house of Chanel shuttered their doors and was the only designer of the day to truly challenge the house of Dior.
One has to be reminded of both the ration on fabrics in the late 1940's during World War II and the dominance of Dior's 1947 “New Look” that sprang forth as rebellion with its dramatically pinched waist and near explosion of fullness at the hem. Only Balencaiga began to turn the tide of silhouette by broadening the shoulder and letting out the waist for his 1949 coats and dresses. His mastery of line and form as expressed through fabric was nearly unsurpassed. Even Christian Dior acknowledged Balanciaga as, "the master of us all," according to Fashion of the Twentieth Century, Francois Baudot.
Balenciaga made clothes that appeared effortless on the wearer and using the body as a spring board to push off of with dimension. The effect was always dynamic and worked with, rather than against a woman's body.
Harnessing the bravada of the Spanish people, Balencaiga constantly chose as inspiration references to his native culture. Collections were directly derived from the music and costumes of flamenco, and the traditional black dress of both women in mourning and of the Catholic monastery.
Balenciaga constantly incorporated references to his native Spain. The glamour and panache of the Bull Fighter's costume turned into many bolero inventions. The references, at first being somewhat literal, the pieces seemingly created as an homage, over time became streamlined, a succinct distillation of invention.
Cristobal Balenciaga had a special panache for line, turning up the volume on either silhouette or color and utilizing impressive restraint leaving the finished creation nothing short of an exclamation mark. The timelessness of these pieces is undenyable.
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