Assembling related ideas for the blog is a luxurious task. I love coming at the ideas from different angles. The theme this week is classic design. All three of the classic design posts featured this week were the first three that came to mind… the 911 Porsche, Beech Bonanza airplanes and the fashion house Balenciaga. These three iconic design companies are all in a league of their own. I can easily imagine Cristóbal Balenciaga, Walter and Olive Beech and Ferdinand Porsche in a mega collaboration. Imagine a Porsche 911 or a Beech Bonanza with meticulously tailored upholstery designed by Balenciaga and hand crafted by his atelier. The buttons, the materials, the folds and the simple elegance would feel right at home in a Beech Bonanza or a Porsche 911.

The mid century fashions are iconic and behold a grace and elegance that is stunning. But Balenciaga is not simply a mid century fashion house. Balanciaga is one of the most relevant fashion houses today— not only because of the incredible talent of it’s namesake founder, Cristóbal Balenciaga— but in great part due to the outstanding talent of Nicolas Ghesquière whom was creative director from 1997-2012. Imagine being in the position of taking the helm of one of the most iconic fashion houses in history. Some would be safe and carry forth the aesthetic and principles established by the founding creative force. However,Ghesquière had many of us awaiting each season to watch his inspirations unfold. I was thrilled to see how he truly captured the luxury and level of excellence the brand is rooted in with a bold, fresh approach to the future of fashion— the materials, technology, intricate details and rich textures. A true visionary. Ghesquière is now the Creative Director Louis Vuitton and it will be equally exciting to monitor this evolution. Meanwhile, back in my dream driveway, I stop for a moment to admire the Porsche 911, with its perfectly proportioned design and rumbling purr of an engine. I snap the well crafted handle of the door and pause to admire the upholstery designed by Cristóbal Balenciaga— sweet details in the upholstered buttons and ribbed leather and classic leather stitching on the steering wheel (it’s my dream, remember…). I should probably be wearing woven leather driving gloves for this. I start her up and drive the winding country road to the airport. There sits my V35 Bonanza, in unpainted aluminum, shining, smiling and waiting to fly. I park the 911 in the shady spot, admire all of the details of this beautiful bird in the pre-flight and climb in. In this particular dream, I’ve had Nicolas Ghesquière design the upholstery and it’s out of this world. It’s sci-fi. It’s the future. It’s space. It’s generations of design excellence all woven into one perfect day. The flight over rocky coasts and then snowy mountains is invigorating. I don’t want this dream to end. — angela [separator type=“thin”] “A true fashion innovator, Cristobal Balenciaga radically altered the fashionable silhouette of women in the mid-twentieth century. With the methodical skill of an expert tailor, he created garments of fluidity and grace. Unlike many couturiers, Balenciaga was able to drape, cut, and fit his own muslin patterns, known as toiles. He was respected throughout the fashion world for both his knowledge of technique and construction, and his unflinching perfectionism.”

>> Beth Charleston, MET Museum

“Balenciaga was born in the small fishing village of Guetaria in the Basque region of Spain on January 21, 1895. From his early years, he spent many hours by his mother’s side as she worked as a seamstress. In his teens, the most prominent woman of his town, the Marquesa de Casa Torres, became his patron and client, sending him to Madrid for formal training in tailoring and proudly wearing the results. Balenciaga found early success in his native country. He opened branches of his boutique Eisa in Madrid, Barcelona, and the fashionable seaside resort of San Sebastián. His designs were favored by the Spanish royal family and fashionable members of the aristocracy. When the Spanish Civil War forced the closure of his boutiques, Balenciaga moved his operation to Paris, the acknowledged fashion capital of the world. There the talented designer joined the ranks of Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Mainbocher, among other established couturiers. In August 1937, Balenciaga staged his first runway show at his Avenue George V atelier, showing a collection that was heavily influenced by the Spanish Renaissance. Balenciaga interpreted numerous historical styles throughout his career. His “Infanta” gown was inspired by the costumes of the young Spanish princesses from portraits by Diego Velázquez, while the short, heavily ornamented “jacket of light” traditionally worn by toreadors in the bullfighting ring inspired much of his evening wear.“

>> Beth Charleston, MET Museum

“By 1939, Balenciaga was being praised in the French press as a revolutionizing force in fashion, with buyers and customers fighting to gain access to his collection. During World War II, clients risked travel to Europe for Balenciaga’s designs, especially his celebrated square coat—in which the sleeve was cut in one piece with the yoke—and anything shown in his unique color combination of black and brown or black lace over bright pink. In the postwar years, Balenciaga’s designs became streamlined and linear. The clothing he created was different than the popular, curvy hourglass shape that Christian Dior promoted with his New Look. Balenciaga favored fluid lines that allowed him to alter the way clothing related to a woman’s body. Waistlines were dropped, then raised, independent of the wearer’s natural waistline. In 1953, he introduced the balloon jacket, an elegant sphere that encased the upper body and provided a pedestal for the wearer’s head. In 1957 came the creation of his high-waisted baby doll dress, the gracefully draped cocoon coat, and the balloon skirt, shown as a single pouf or doubled, one pouf on top of the other. Neither the sack dress, introduced in 1957, nor the chemise of 1958 had a discernible waist, but both were considered universally flattering and were copied by a large number of ready-to-wear manufacturers at every price range. With these design innovations, Balenciaga achieved what is considered to be his most important contribution to the world of fashion: a new silhouette for women.”

>> Beth Charleston, MET Museum

“Throughout the 1960s, Balenciaga continued showing collections of unparalleled technique and beauty. His innovative use of fabric—he liked bold materials, heavy cloths, and ornate embroideries—led him to work with the Swiss fabric house of Abraham. Together they developed silk gazar, a stiffer version of the pliable fabric that Balenciaga used in suits, day dresses, and evening wear. Loyal clients such as the Duchess of Windsor, Pauline de Rothschild, and Gloria Guinness continued to appreciate the discreet but important touches he provided in his clothing: collars that stood away from the collarbone to give a swanlike appearance and the shortened (seven-eighths-length) bracelet sleeve, so called because it enabled the wearer to better flaunt her jewelry. When the Balenciaga salon closed in 1968, the occasion marked the end of the career of a great artist whose influence is still being felt in the twenty-first century. The modern look that he created has been sustained by André Courrèges and Emanuel Ungaro, who both apprenticed at his atelier, and by Hubert de Givenchy, among others. Balenciaga died on March 24, 1972, at home in his beloved Spain. A longtime client offered a fitting epitaph: “Women did not have to be perfect or even beautiful to wear his clothes. His clothes made them beautiful.”

>> Beth Charleston, MET Museum

Cristobal Balenciaga


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