The Victoria and Albert Museum are about to open the UK’s first retrospective on the enigmatic man Cecil Beaton referred to as, ‘fashion’s Picasso’, and Christian Dior called, ‘the master of all of us’. He was, of course, Spanish fashion designer Christobal Balenciaga. It is 100 years since he opened his first fashion house at San Sabastian and 80 years since he opened his Paris salon. Balenciaga is considered to have been one of the most innovative and influential fashion designers of the last century. His exquisite craftsmanship and pioneering use of heavy fabrics and unnecessary detail revolutionised the female silhouette, and lead to the creation of a succession of shapes rather than a single signature garment. He wasn’t interested in ready-to-wear, instead he wanted to design for the people who would wear his clothes. Balenciaga once said, ‘A dress follows the woman’s body, it’s not the woman that follows the dress’.
Christobal Balenciaga died back in 1972, but his influence is still visible on modern fashion and the label he established lives on.
We have created a display Quiet Study Room using images sourced only from UCA Rochester Archive. Examples on show include those gathered from British Vogue (we have incomplete runs that date from 1940), and Harper’s Bazaar (our collection includes issues from the early 1950’s); as well as from other journals such as Vogue Paris, Queen, Flair, and Jardin Des Modes. There are examples from American Vogue (all back issued can be accessed electronically on ‘Vogue Archive’, via UCA Library Catalogue). Articles about Christobal Balenciaga can be found in our back journal collection, such as Harpers Bazaar (June 2017, pages 168 – 177), and Selvedge magazine (Issue 69, pages 56-7) .
The Stuart Aitken research files can be used to follow the path of the V&A exhibition, exploring both Balenciaga’s work (in ‘The Modern Period, Book 3, Balenciaga’) and his influence on other designers, such as Andre Courreges and Hubert de Givenchy (‘The Modern Period, Book 4, The Balenciaga School’). Stuart Aitken, a long-serving former member of UCA Rochester’s teaching staff, donated these files upon retirement. The studies comprise of collated notes, and are illustrated with Stuart’s own sketches. Stuart also made meticulous notes on other designers, and explored different aspects of garment construction, and these are examined in his other files. (please search UCA Library catalogue or contact the Gateway counter to learn more).
Above left: Stuart Aitken research file ‘Balenciaga’.
Above right: The bottom shelf of the cabinet includes images from the Stuart Aitken research file ‘Balenciaga School’.
(Please note that all aforementioned sources are classed as archive reference material and to be used within the library only. Please ask at the Gateway counter if you wish to view them).
Victoria & Albert Museum’s exhibition Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion opens Saturday, 27th May 2017. For information and ticket prices please click here.