Cristóbal Balenciaga exhibition: ‘Master of Tailoring’
Considered “the master of us all” by his contemporary Christian Dior, Cristóbal Balenciaga was adored by the fashion world and social elites of the 20th century. Known for his quiet lifestyle and reserved nature, the couturier honed a lasting legacy of mystery, while his sartorial compositions, with their immaculate tailoring and brilliant executions, continue to articulate his innate sense of style that has stood the test of time.
Cristóbal Balenciaga: Master of Tailoring beckons viewers into the classical oasis of the Spanish couturier’s Parisian showroom to experience his habitude with hushed reverence, immersed in his chapel-like salon frequented by the Hollywood starlets and royalty who donned his creations. Featuring an expert curation of rarely seen archival pieces from the 1940s to the late 1960s, with many making their U.S. debut, Master of Tailoring affirms the prowess and breadth of the couturier’s work in an elegant display of his signature silhouettes with a touch of the unexpected.
In this exclusive exhibition, the art of Balenciaga’s mastery is unveiled through more than 30 garments, ranging from exquisitely made daywear to evening gowns worn by Hollywood icons Elizabeth Taylor and Dolores del Río. With highlights from the extensive collection of the Fondation Azzedine Alaïa, contributions from the Balenciaga Archives, and original Balenciaga-EISA sketches and communications from the archives at Parodi Costume Collection, Master of Tailoring uniquely encompasses the process of haute couture from the perspectives of both the couturier and client.
Master of Tailoring is curated by Gaël Mamine, head of collections of Fondation Azzedine Alaïa, in collaboration with Gaspard de Massé, head of archives at Balenciaga, and Gonzalo Parodi, director of Parodi Costume Collection, and organized by Rafael Gomes, creative director of SCAD FASH museums.
About the artist
Born the son of a seamstress and fisherman on Spain’s Basque coast, Cristóbal Balenciaga was immersed in fashion from an early age. Observing his mother create pieces for the Spanish aristocracy, who vacationed in his hometown of Getaria, Balenciaga cultivated his own natural artisanal sensibilities as he watched his mother work. Taken under the patronage of his mother’s client, the Marquesa de Casa Torres, Balenciaga began formal training as a tailor at the tender age of 12. Emboldened by this expertise in tailoring, he began his professional career with a solid foundation that evolved from his beginnings in Spain to his final headquarters at 10 Avenue George V in Paris.
Equipped with confidence in his talent, a love of the past, and pride in his Spanish heritage, Balenciaga sculpted a second skin for his clients, who watched with rapt attention as his innovative designs paraded through the salon during his twice-yearly collection debuts. From Balenciaga’s needle and thread, iconic silhouettes like the sack dress, baby doll dress, square jacket, egg-shaped coat, and high-low hemline bloomed to life. He was considered a genius of his craft and admired by designers of his time, including Hubert de Givenchy, Coco Chanel, and Pierre Balmain.
Images courtesy of the SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, Georgia, USA.