While the fashion world is currently blue in the face awaiting Vetements’ Demna Gvasalia’s first Balenciaga collection in March, it’s perfect timing for MoMu to remind us all who the original shape maker was. With their latest exhibition “Game Changers - Reinventing the 20th century silhouette” the prestigious Antwerp Fashion Museum focuses on Cristóbal Balenciaga’s radical turnover of the constricted female silhouette in the 20s and 30s of the last century and the ongoing change he inspired in fashion.
When everyone else was giving you hourglass body-ody-ody, Balenciaga did a Basque shrug and turned the game around by adding liberating shape and architectural volume to his designs. Royalty lined up and people actually risked their safety travelling to Europe during WWII to book a Balenciaga appointment. You know that would’ve been me dodging roadblocks and checkpoints if Cristóbal had a 4PM slot. With age, his genius became even more apparent through his ‘balloon’ and ‘sack’ dresses and the marvels he created for society clients such as green-fingered Listerine heiress Bunny Mellon.
(Image : Balenciaga archive 1967 black gazar ‘rose’ dress and cape)
With inspiration stemming from Japan and its delicate kimonos, likeminded icons of Balenciaga's time followed suit - with French designers Paul Poiret, Gabrielle Chanel and Balenciaga’s mentor Madeleine Vionnet pushing the frock freedom frontiers. They each reimagined what femininity was supposed to look like in their own manner and paved the way for many present-day designer greats to take it to the next level. Off top, images of Issey Miyake’s billowing pleats, Iris Van Herpen’s laser-cut exoskeletons and Yohji Yamamoto’s Nick Knight-shot red voluminous coats spring to mind. You’d also be hard-pressed to locate a more gifted modern master of shape than Rei Kawakubo at Comme Des Garçons.
(Image : Yannis Vlamos)
The exhibit will display 100 unique couture and prêt-à-porter archive pieces by Balenciaga, Poiret, Vionnet, Chanel, Issey Miyake, Ann Demeulemeester, Comme des Garçons, Yohji Yamamoto and Maison Martin Margiela.
To top it off with an exclusive tidbit: the expo will also debut an exciting digital project involving German-born, Antwerp-educated image maker Daniel Sannwald (who made his Dazed debut at 24 and has since been racking up ace features, including M.I.A.’s “Matangi” album cover) and Belgian creative supernova / model great Hannelore Knuts.
(Above image : Hannelore Knuts for Twin by Amy Troost - Fashion editor : Alastair McKimm)
(above image : M.I.A. by Daniel Sannwald)
So get ready to don your most dramatic, long-trained outfit when visiting the exhibition. MoMu’s wooden steps are perfect for a look-back-over-the-shoulder ascending moment. Cristóbal would have wanted you to.
18/03/2016 - 14/08/2016
MoMu – Fashion Museum Province of Antwerp
Nationalestraat 28, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium
Tickets: €8 / €6 (reduction) / €3 (18-26) / free (-18)
"Game Changers - Reinventing the 20th century silhouette" poster image :
Comme des Garçons AW12-13 by Mark Segal - graphic design by Paul Boudens
Words by Immi Abraham.