Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Balenciaga Exhibit With Hamish Bowles

Cristobal Balenciaga
TD and I recently attended the press preview for Balenciaga: Spanish Master at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute. This show, about the famous couturier who grew up in Spain and then worked in Paris, was conceived by fashion designer Oscar de la Renta who is the chairman of the Institute, and curated by Hamish Bowles, Vogue's European Editor at Large. We did a video tour through the exhibit and had the pleasure of talking with Hamish about the show which you can watch at the end of this post. You might remember that we talked to Hamish during our visit to the Met's Costume Institute.

The Queen Sofia Spanish Institute promotes awareness and understanding of the culture of the Spanish speaking world in the United States. Certainly, Cristobal Balenciaga, born in a small fishing village on the northern coast of Spain in 1895, is one of the stars of the Spanish arts. His father was a fisherman and his mother took in sewing. As a boy, he was interested in sewing and his talent was spotted by the most prominent woman in town, Marquesa de Casa Torres, who became his patron and client. She sent the teen to Madrid for formal training in tailoring, and proudly wore the results. Balenciaga designed clothes in Spain for the aristocracy and royal family until the Spanish Civil War forced him to move. He opened his house of couture in Paris in 1937 and worked there until he closed it in 1968, dying four years later.

Due to his training in technique and construction, Balenciaga could drape, cut and fit his own patterns so he was able to create new shapes – balloon, cocoon or funnel shapes that stood away from the body. Instead of a lot of ornamentation or decoration, the clothes had a simplicity which was loved by the chic women of the time, including the Duchess of Windsor, Princess Grace and Babe Paley.

Harper's Bazaar observed that Balenciaga
"abides by the great rule that
elimination is the secret of chic."

Balenciaga himself was an enigma, giving only one interview in fifty years. Known for the rigor his discipline, he was called the "monk of fashion." Coco Chanel said, "He is the only true couturier among us." Cecil Beaton commented that "Balenciaga is "fashion's Picasso," referring to another great artist from Spain.
Enjoy this video visit to the exhibition and my chat with Hamish Bowles:


Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

This is such an exclusive scoop, Bart! I loved your interview -- have long had huge admiration for Hamish Bowles and hearing him elucidate upon the Balenciaga exhibit was fascinating. And may I say that you cut quite a chic figure? What an amazing post. Thank you! xx

Bart Boehlert said...

Lisa, you are the sweetest - many thanks.

Reggie Darling said...

Thanks for this post, now I really must high meself over to Park Avenue and take it in. Reggie

Bart Boehlert said...

Reggie, You will enjoy it -

helen tilston said...

Bart, a beautiful show and great interview.

Thanks for sharing - will definitely take it in should my travels bring me to NYC.

my best

M said...

Beautiful post -- wonderful choice of subject! (And I remember as a teenager thinking there couldn't be a more beatifully European name than "Cristobal Balenciaga"!)
Happy Thanksgiving, Bart.

Bart Boehlert said...

Hi Helen and Michael, Thank you for your comments, and happy Thanksgiving!

Toby Worthington said...

That was a fair treat! Isn't Hamish Bowles wonderful~
the perfect blend of sophistication and modesty, what is generally termed 'knowledge worn lightly'.
The conversation of most style mavens is blather, but
Hamish Bowles is ALWAYS worth listening to.

P.Gaye Tapp at Little Augury said...

Bart, I would love to go to this show, but doubt I will make it. this is a lovely little consolation, many thanks. the attraction to B. for me is the references he worked from most of his life from his native Spain. wonderful, pgt

An Aesthete's Lament said...

Heavenly clothes, and Hamish is a dream to talk with. Am going back to the exhibition again this week, if only to see that single white-linen blouse modeled after a fisherman's shirt. Perfection.

the designers muse said...

How interesting. Thanks for the post. I would love to see the show. But your video, I'm sure, is the next best thing if I don't get there.