The Savannah College of Art and Design has unveiled “Cristóbal Balenciaga: Master of Tailoring” at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film in Atlanta.
The exhibition features 30-plus looks from the Spanish-born designer Cristóbal Balenciaga that were created between 1942 and 1968 — at the height of his acclaim. During that time he was known to be the most demanding designer of his generation. Visitors will find an assortment of designs from the Fondation Azzedine Alaïa that were culled from designer Azzedine Alaïa’s personal archives.
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Many creative forces came together to execute the show. Gaël Mamine of the Fondation Azzedine Alaïa curated it, in collaboration with Gaspard de Massé of the Balenciaga Archives and Gonzalo Parodi of Parodi Costume Collection, and it was organized by SCAD FASH Museum’s creative director Rafael Gomes. Accustomed to collaborating with the fashion, photography, interior design and other departments at SCAD, Gomes said the group effort for the exhibition involved more work, but “everyone was fantastic.”
“We are so happy to be showing this exhibition now. It is a very rich story especially for our students. There is so much that they can take away from the exhibition about fashion history, patternmaking and materials,” Gomes said.
The namesake designer’s meticulously constructed creations deliver a certain relevance, given the current swirl of fast fashion, according to Gomes. “The quality of the materials and the pieces were really made to last. It is really good to show our students, and also the public, of course, the importance of quality materials and craftsmanship, and timeless design,” he said.
The timing of the exhibition, which runs through June 2, comes on the heels of the release of the drama series “Cristóbal Balenciaga” by Disney+, with costumes by Bina Daigeler and Pepo Ruiz Dorado.
In recent days, a few of the French luxury house’s celebrity ambassadors — Kim Kardashian, Nicola Peltz and Devon Lee Carson, among others — have faced social media backlash for supporting Balenciaga after its controversial holiday 2022 ad campaign. Announcing her latest brand ambassadorship, Kardashian included in an Instagram post, “For me, this long-standing relationship is built on mutual trust and a commitment to doing what’s right.”
The Parodi Costume Collection shared letters that were exchanged between the founding designer and one of his clients in the U.S. that included sketches, swatches and in some instances prices. The collection also has a custom dress from the Mexican actress Dolores del Rio that it is on view.
One of the more labor-intensive parts of organizing the show was the modification of the dress forms that are being used. They have been padded and reconfigured to accommodate the custom designs, that were created to clients’ specific body measurements. SCAD alumni received training about how to modify the dress forms through specialists at the Parodi Costume Collection and the foundation — a skill set that will serve them well, Gomes said. “It could almost be an exhibition into itself just to show all of the dress forms. It is so labor-intensive and every single one looks different,” he said.
Del Rio’s dress, for example, is quite heavy, and it required a base of stiff crinoline, and then another layer of felt to secure the fabric from moving. Those precautions are needed for preservation, during what will be a six-month display. Another standout piece is a gold sari couture gown that was worn by the Oscar-winning actress Elizabeth Taylor to a gala at the Lido Paris in 1964.
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