Shaping fashion: Behold the V&A's 2017 Balenciaga retrospective

Alberta Tiburzi in envelope dress_by Cristóbal Balenciaga [Photo: V&A]

London’s Victoria and Albert museum has played host to some of the greatest fashion exhibitions of the past decade; from 2013’s David Bowie (which sold 311,956 tickets), The Hollywood Costume show in 2012 (251,738 tickets) and, of course, Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty expo that raked in half a million visitors

Therefore, it’s not surprising that the South Kensington museum is expecting this year’s Balenciaga retrospective to pull in the punters. The exhibition, which opened on 27 May 2017, marks the first time the museum has showcase the Spanish couturier’s designs.

Cristóbal Balenciaga at work in Paris in 1968 [Photo: V&A]

It’s an exhibition that’s got the fashion world in somewhat of a frenzy. After all Cristóbal Balenciaga was considered by many to be a ‘master’ of his time. Born in 1985 and with his first shop open in 1919, Balenciaga was incredibly ahead of his time and regarded as the ultimate couturier thanks to his love of using avant garde shapes and exceptional tailoring.

Gabrielle Chanel once said he was the ‘only’ real couturier, adding that all the ‘others’ are simply fashion designers. His iconic designs were worn by two of the most stylish women of all time, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn, not to mention hundreds of other fashion icons such as Jackie Kennedy.

Evening dress in silk taffeta from 1955 [Photo: V&A]
Baby doll cocktail dress from 1958 [Photo: V&A]

The V&A’s new retrospective pays homage to the designer’s legacy by showcasing some of his most iconic designs. But it’s not just Cristóbal’s creations on display; after all, the designer died in 1972 and has been succeeded by a number of creative directors, including Nicolas Ghesquière (who today heads up Louis Vuitton) and Alexander Wang. But it’s Georgian designer Demna Gvasalia who’s held the reins of the house since 2015.

Highlights of the exhibition include the balloon hem that Balenciaga was so famous for, which can be seen on a fuchsia even dress on the ground floor of the two-floor display. A lace baby doll dress, designed in 1958, is another key look and one that up-and-coming London Fashion Week designer Molly Goddard has been inspired by with her own creations. You can also view the silk gazar envelope dress, worn by Alberta Tiburzi, and a decadent evening jacket, crafted from silk velvet and boasting glass-paste beading, that draws on Spanish heritage.

‘Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion’ runs from 27 May 2017 – 18 February 2018 at London’s Victoria & Albert museum. Admission £12 (concessions available).