Cristóbal Balenciaga Museoa

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

‘Balenciaga is the master of us all’ – Christian Dior

First of all, I cannot believe I didn’t know that Balenciaga was Spanish. No, I cannot believe I didn't know Balenciaga was Basque. There I was living in Bilbao oblivious to the fact that just an hour away was Balenciaga's hometown, Getaria. Oh how beautiful that little port village is, but more on that another day. The principal reason for the trip to Getaria was to see the Cristóbal Balenciaga Museoa. A museum that I have to say left me quite emotional in places (what can I say I’m a sucker for a fabulous dress).

Unfortunately, the main exhibition prohibited photos and to be honest I was rather too engrossed anyway! The museum manifests its belief that Balenciaga’s work was crucial ‘to the history of fashion and design’, ‘he [Balenciaga] reigned supreme in the international haute couture world’. Even designers such as Christian Dior, Coco Chanel and Hubert de Givenchy, all also prominent at the time of Balenciaga, sung Balenciaga’s praises. Chanel recognised that Balenciaga was capable in every stage of the design and production of an haute couture garment. He could personally design, cut and sew a garment, not something every designer can be remembered for.

The museum began with a short documentary on Balenciaga and his work. His beginnings in a fashion house in San Sebastian (oh my gosh, yes, back in the day San Sebastian had a fashion house), his attempt at success in London and then his move to Paris. We were also told of Balenciaga’s strive for perfection, his rigour and coherence. We then began walking through the exhibition which chronologically displayed selected works from Balenciaga. Some date back to almost a hundred years ago but also more modern pieces including those from Balenciaga’s ‘golden age’ in the fifties and sixties. The collection of satins and sequins was only made more magical by the fact that we were the only people in the museum. We joked about trying on the flamboyant spoils, quite literally fit for duchesses. It’s no wonder he was so popular in Paris. Balenciaga took with him that Spanish love of bold colour which the Parisians found novel.  His works were daring but elegant and really just breathtaking. 

It’s interesting that Balenciaga enjoyed playing with colour and texture yet aboveall he strove for simplicity. Balenciaga’s aim seemed to be to find ease in the audacious. It should be exotic but it shouldn’t appear complicated. At the age of just twenty two Balenciaga began designing in his first atelier in San Sebastian and his name prevails today. Personally, I feel so much more connected to the fashion of Spain and the Basque Country and to its history. Dior was right he really can be considered a 'master'.


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