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Exclusive Exhibition – ‘Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion’

Words by Penny Cordner 
Images supplied

Regarded by many as ‘The Master’ of haute couture, Cristóbal Balenciaga was one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century. 

A must see for fashion-lovers and runway admirers, Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion is now on show at Bendigo Art Gallery (17 August – 10 November). This stunning exhibition celebrates Balenciaga’s innovative use of form and structure and provides a glimpse into the life of the trailblazing Spaniard. 

The exclusive exhibition, curated by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, showcases Balenciaga’s work throughout the 1950s and 1960s – regarded by many as the most creative period of his career.

Through a display of more than 100 garments and hats, defined by their sculptural quality, manipulation of textile and dramatic use of colour and texture – visitors will uncover the legacy of this renowned couturier. 

“The exhibition continues our niche of bringing major fashion shows to Bendigo and illustrates Balenciaga’s incredible innovation, his colossal influence and enduring legacy on fashion as we know it today,” says Director of Bendigo Art Gallery, Jessica Bridgfoot. 

As one of the oldest and largest regional galleries in the country,  Bendigo Art Gallery has established strong ties with international institutions in order to bring outstanding fashion and design exhibitions exclusively to Bendigo. 

“Balenciaga was absolutely a seminal figure in the fashion world and we feel that the exhibition is a must-see for anyone with an understanding or interest in fashion,” Jessica says.

Balenciaga was absolutely a seminal figure in the fashion world and we feel that the exhibition is a must-see for anyone with an understanding or interest in fashion.

Not only was Balenciaga revered for his pioneering use of fabrics, but his work went on to redefine the female silhouette in modern times. In the later stages of his career, Balenciaga introduced bubbled, caped and geometric silhouettes never before seen in women’s fashion, refusing to accept the hour-glass shapes of other designers of his time.  

Balenciaga’s radical ‘sack dress’ proved that freedom of movement and comfort were embraced by women, and he was responsible for revolutionary shapes such as the tunic, baby doll and shift dresses – all of which remain fashion staples today. 

The exhibit also provides a unique insight into Balenciaga’s creative process – with archive sketches, patterns, photographs, fabric samples and catwalk footage included alongside the garments. 

Thanks to a collaboration with X-ray artist, Nick Veasey and a digital pattern-making project with the London College of Fashion, visitors are able to uncover more of his creative process than ever before. This new, forensic investigation into the garments reveal the details that made Balenciaga’s work so extraordinary. 

Highlights of the exhibition include the Tulip Dress – with its gravity defying layers, and the Opera Coat, which frames the wearers face as if emerging from a flower.  

There are also ensembles made for American actress and singer, Ava Gardner and dresses and hats belonging to 1960s fashion icon, Gloria Guinness. Visitors will also find pieces worn by Mona von Bismarck – one of the world’s wealthiest women, who once ordered more than 150 Balenciaga garments in one season!

 Balenciaga’s own work is followed by that of some of his protégés and other notable designers who continue his legacy by drawing on his passion for innovation and modernism. Work from designers such as Issey Miyake, Iris van Herpen and Emanuel Ungaro are on show alongside pieces from the current designer of House of Balenciaga, Demna Gvasalia.

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion is exclusively showing at Bendigo Art Gallery – just two hours north of Melbourne. There are a number of great places to refuel before or after the exhibit, including the eclectic Bendigo Wholefoods & Kitchen and the outstanding Masons of Bendigo


THE DETAILS

WHAT: Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion
WHERE: Bendigo Art Gallery, 42 View Street, Bendigo, Vic 3550
WHEN: 17 Aug 19 – 10 Nov 19
More information: https://www.bendigoregion.com.au/bendigo-art-gallery/exhibitions/balenciaga-shaping-fashion

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