In 800 Signs

Balenciaga was an ambidexter. Suspicious, wary, he used to present his work one month away from Paris runways to protect it from plagiarists. He would always operate in absolute silence, with the cut as his one single obsession. Far from ostentatious glamour, Balenciaga designed volumes without tulle or corset, invented silk gazar with Swiss manufacturer Abraham. He formed those balloon dresses from 1950s and 1960s which sealed the reputation of the House forever.

A dialog of beauties: Balenciaga, Bourdelle. Photography © Araso
A dialog of beauties: Balenciaga, Bourdelle. Photography © Araso

More signs

 

Inside his ivory tower of 10 Avenue George V in Paris, the Spanish Master created collections for the elite of the elite. Black infant women, dressed like ramparts for these spiritual heiresses of el Greco and Zurbarán. A maestro beyond reproach, Balenciaga is dubbed by his peers, including Chanel, who will say « he was the only one of us, couturiers, who knew how to sew, draw and cut » and the Maison Christian Dior: « Haute couture is an orchestra that only Balenciaga knows how to conduct, all of us, the other designers, merely follow his lead. » In 1950, whilst Cristóbal is on top of his fame, a certain André Courrèges writes to him: « I want to work for you, for free, like the last apprentice ». By a strange twist of fate, it is because of André Courrèges’ success that in 1968 Balenciaga deems his time is over and closes his couture house.

Balenciaga inside the Bourdelle Museum, Illustration © Araso
Balenciaga inside the Bourdelle Museum, Illustration © Araso

These beauties now come out of their tissues from Palais Galliera’s conservation rooms to go back to another atelier, that of sculptor and painter Antoine Bourdelle and once again display their marvels to the public. Beauties from the past dialog over nymphs’ sculptures and end of the XIXth century portraits. What are they saying? Probably that not so long ago in the middle of templating and tacking, fashion would create timeless icons. Powerful images worthy of featuring in the Pantheon of works of art. Unbeatable mat blacks, shiny blacks, see-through blacks. Gazing at their own beauty in the light of 2017’s fashion, they probably laugh, at least a little.


Balenciaga, l’oeuvre au Noir, an exhibition by the Palais Galliera at the Musée Bourdelle in Paris, until July 16th 2017