It’s no secret that the V&A is a world leader in the conservation of textiles and fashion.
As you pass through each of the rooms both are displayed alongside the statues and ceramics, jewelry and artifacts that make it a discovery and joy to visit.
This week I was lucky enough to be at the V&A to see a collection by fashion students at Central St Martins inspired by Christobal Balenciaga.
He was a master of haute couture, creating simple and structured designs and unusually for his contemporaries, could do so with his own hands from start to finish.
In his home region of Basque Spain he was apprenticed to a tailor from the age of 12.
It was these skills that ensured he could render fashion illustrations from the page to the finished product with a technique that was uniquely and precisely his.
It gave his work a finesse that allowed him to design highly architectural garments that were nonetheless possible to wear.
Described by Christian Dior as ‘the master of us all,’ he transformed The New Look women’s silhouette so revolutionary in post-war Europe and turned it on its head.
Much of the look of the 1950s can be attributed to Balenciaga: the broad shouldered look of 1951 was his, as was the empire line of the late 50s.
His couture house eventually closed in 1968 but his designs remain influential even today.
It was his work that inspired the 15 designs from Central St Martin’s students shown at the V&A. They attend the London college of art and design with a reputation for pushing the boundaries in fashion.
Each of the 15 designs were walked through the long galleries to the central catwalk followed by visitors, students, admirers and clouds of photographers with flash bulbs popping.
Taking a respectful circular tour around the permanent fashion exhibit before crossing a packed hallway into the Raphael room the designs remained firm – no frippery here, they retained their structure.
In the collection was a suit designed with a hybrid of 60s and cool glam rock in space age silver, a red trouser suit cut so simply and draped, clinging to the body like a Balenciaga cape and a sculptured men’s outfit using Spanish earthy browns of the Basque countryside.
There was far more layering and texture than you’d ever see in classic Balenciaga but the sculpture was there.
This Fashion In Motion was a more modernist theatre and each design was unique and individual, setting apart one designer from the next.
The V&A has presented Fashion In Motion previously but this collection was timely prior to the exhibition Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion on the 27th May.
I enjoyed it for the power of the new and pull of the old which in the setting of the V&A was the perfect combination.
© Carrie Henderson 2017