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2005-06 Faculty Development Grant
The Imprint of Cristobal Balenciaga
The emergence of the Pret a Porter clothing industry was as important to fashion as was the Industrial Revolution to manufacturing; an entirely different quality of product evolved. As this new era was ushered in during the 50’s and 60’s, the couturiere’s were the bricks and mortar upon which this industry was built. Often cited as the most influential designer, Cristobal Balenciaga’s artistically unique style of silhouette and shape provided a blueprint for many future designers to follow, including Nicolas Ghesquiere, current designer of the House of his name.
A perfect embodiment of the designers’ goal of “form follows function,” Balenciaga focused on a very specific clientele, the wealthy elite, giving his women exactly what they needed and wanted. Their changing lifestyles led him to continual design innovation.
The exhibition of Balenciaga’s work at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs leads the viewer along his life path chronologically. Pamela Golbin, the exhibit curator, pointed out interestingly, that many of the themes he developed throughout his career, such as use of fl oral motifs, bold contrasts, and the exploration of volume and shape, were apparent in his earliest pieces.
One of the first pieces on display was an ankle length dress made entirely of black embroidered leaves stitched together by hand. At first glance, it appears to be a textured fabric, but on closer inspection, one is amazed at the virtuosity of workmanship. The individual leaves create a lifelike effect as the spaces in between allow an airiness and lightness which became one of his trademarks. The little pointed leaves are delicate, yet the all over statement is one of grandiose strength. Within the exhibit, the flower motif appears again and again yet never soft and whispery, the flowers always graphic and bold.
To read more of this report, and to see images of the exhibition, click here.