Generally a state of heavy perspiration and slight drunkenness is not the finest way to take in an exhibition, or maybe it kind of is, either way, our slightly bedraggled state did not hamper our enjoyment of the V&A’s latest fashion blockbuster of an exhibition, Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion. And, as an aside, is sweating maybe quite “in”? We’re trialling this AM at Ten HQ – one lady staff member announcing that she had (her words) a “right sweaty tash”. Might spritz on a patch later.
But, on with last night’s activities, which went something like: arrive, avoid (get pushed off) red carpet, trounce a few G&Ts (pink! fashion), resist spending money in gift shop, wonder about how hard it would be to steal a marble bust, and finally: enter the exhibition itself. It begins on the ground floor with the work of Cristobal Balenciaga himself, the V&A mining their incredible archive (alongside a few loans) to pull together over 100 looks by the Spanish master couturier, focussing on his work in the 1950s and 1960s.
What’s striking is how modern it all looks – the incredible architectural rolls of fabric, those flared baby doll dresses, hemlines that rise high at the front and fall to the floor at the back. A mullet dress? Is that a technical term? The focus also falls of Cristobal’s astonishing craft – dresses were X-rayed to show the delicately constructed interiors, whilst swatches of incredible sequinned fabrics sit next to the dresses they went on to create. There are hats too – rows of them – astonishing and architectural, echoing the work of contemporary milliners that came long afterwards.
But this is an exhibition of two halves, and as you ascend upwards, the V&A have also selected those designers who have felt the long influence of Cristobal’s work. It becomes a discussion of legacy – designs from those who helmed the house after Mr Balenciaga – Nicolas Ghesquiere and Demna Gvsalia, namely, demonstrating the way their work was mined from the Balenciaga archive, but also a selection of designers influential in their own right – Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake, J.W.Anderson and many many others. Young designers are also represented – Molly Goddard lent a black baby doll construction, whilst Rory Parnell-Mooney showed one of the sole menswear looks in the show.
It’s £12, and well worth it. Go west – Ten highly reccomends.
Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion at the V&A opens Saturday 27th May