The Victoria & Albert museum in London recently announced its 2017 calendar of exhibitions. Fashion fans will be happy to know that they will be treated to a major retrospective dedicated to Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga. Entitled "Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion" (27 May 2017 - 18 February 2018) the event is set to become the next big fashion exhibit after "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty".
This is the first time Balenciaga gets a retrospective in the UK, but the event will also mark the 90th anniversary of the opening of his first high fashion house (Eisa Costura) and the 80th anniversary of the opening of his Paris salon.
A press release announced that the event will feature around 100 garments and 20 hats (hopefully his architectural headpieces will be included) - pieces collected for the museum by Balenciaga's friend, fashion photographer Cecil Beaton. Most of these pieces are part of the V&A archive, but they are rarely seen.
According to the official news about the event, the pieces will be exhibited alongside sketches, photographs, film, fabric samples and even x-rays that will help visitors revealing details of the construction of the garments, his mastery of cutting, and pioneering use of textiles, key aspects of Balenciaga's art.
X-rays have actually become quite popular in fashion exhibitions, and they are stirring fashion towards a new discipline: in the last few years some architectural practices developed projects inspired by "forensic architecture", that is an investigation of a specific space where a particular incident happened (imagine a city that has been bombed during a war).
X-raying garments could instead be deemed as a "forensic fashion" practice that allows us to explore how things are made.
The exhibition is definitely timely: currently owned by Kering, Balenciaga boasts from this year (he was actually appointed a year ago) a very trendy creative director, Vêtements' Demna Gvasalia.
The V&A event will actually mainly focus on the work Balenciaga produced during the '50s and the '60s, even though his influence on other designers will also be explored.
Can't wait till next May? Always keep an eye on what's on at the Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum in Getaria, Spain. Since it opened in 2011, the museum has organized fashion exhibitions and events about fashion and interior design, launched construction classes about some of his most interesting pieces, lent garments to other institutions and analysed Balenciaga's more obscure collaborations such as his iconic design created for a performing group, while also launching rich programmes of educational activities for families and children.
The museum recently launched a new exhibition entitled "Coal and Velvet" (until May 2017), juxtaposing Balenciaga's Haute Couture designs and the traditional garments donned by ordinary people for popular, religious or family celebrations as portrayed by photographer José Ortiz Echagüe.
The two never met, but the exhibition shows the correspondences between shapes and silhouettes, and colours as well, looking at the black shade as interpreted by Balenciaga and at the textured black in Echagüe's images.
Since the garments are showed next to large prints of the photographs, the links between Haute Couture and traditional garments become really clear and the curators manage to establish a dialogue between two worlds that seem very different, but display many fascinating similarities. Let's hope that this connection with photography and traditional garments will also be highlighted, explored and expanded at the V&A's exhibit.