Sunday 28th May

| BY 10 Magazine

Ten Quotes: Cristóbal Balenciaga’s Enduring Legacy

Having never had the pleasure of meeting Cristóbal Balenciaga, being that he died in 1972 and we’re old but not that old, our knowledge of the master couturier is formed from all the things he left behind – the clothes, of course, which exist in hallowed archives from Spain to London or the smatterings of photographs of the women who wore and commissioned his designs. But Cristóbal Balenciaga also lives on through his towering influence over the industry – his architectural forms and mastery of fabric finding their way into the work of those designers that followed him, both inside and outside of the house. So here, in honour of Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion, the V&A’s latest exhibition that opened yesterday, we have cobbled together designers, both Balenciaga’s contemporaries and those working today, as well as people in the industry, all, in some way, addressing the question: what does Balenciaga’s work mean to them?

“Cristóbal Balenciaga’s work was so true to modernity and femininity. Innovative and inviting, his work is always inspiring…”

Simone Rocha  

“I used his way of looking at things 360 degrees… the idea was to bring Cristóbal’s kind of elegance…but take it into a kind of cool and make it more modern”

Demna Gvasalia 

“With Balenciaga the most beautiful things that were produced were the things that were the most simple and sublime”

Gareth Pugh


Balenciaga really corresponded to abstract art, to architecture, and a form of intellectual fashion, austerity mixed with a graphic quality. Today there are many examples of salvaged names, but in this case the power of the house outstripped its founder’s wishes. The maison survived thanks to the perfumes licenses, but also because Balenciaga’s legacy remains vital. Thierry Mugler, for example, who was all about body conscious shapes, might appropriate Balenciaga for a suit with an interior of contrasting panels, like Cristóbal’s petals, but fitted his way. Where Yves Saint Laurent might pay literal homage, the Japanese leaned ultra-conceptual, oversize, and radical. You can see it in their constructions and the way they work materials. Their work helped reveal something more contemporary in Balenciaga then a direct couture interpretation. It was so interesting and timeless that it would have resurfaced in any event, with me or anybody else at the helm. He can be endlessly reinterpreted by other talents who have bold styles and that’s how he is a common denominator, everyone has a version of his oeuvre, because he has entered the collective unconscious.

Nicolas Ghesquiére,
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“Nobody knew how tall he was, if he was slim or fat or — several French journalists thought he wasn’t one person but that he was a team of designers. And this is simply because he did not appear. In addition to the glamorous clients, the people he really liked to dress — very, very odd — was short, fat, middle-aged women. He enjoyed working on the body and didn’t like any kind of constriction. His suits never clung to the body — they sort of shadowed it, if one can say that. And Balenciaga’s look, if you can limit it to anything, is a grand look. His perfectionism was an inspiration.”

Mary Blume


“He laid the foundations of modernity…entirely”

Emanuel Ungaro

“I like seeing how he works with the Boyd…Not necessarily supporting it and following it but doing the total opposite… at a time when everything was very prim and proper and pretty…some things were almost obscene in their scale”

Molly Goddard 

“His vision was so modern. There is a beautiful oddness and femininity to his clothes which is timeless”

Erdem Moralioglu 

BALENCIAGA QUOTES 3One fainted. It was possible to blow up and die. I remember at one show in the early 1960s… Audrey Hepburn turned to me and asked why I wasn’t frothing at the mouth at what I was seeing. I told her I was trying to act calm and detached because, after all, I was a member of the press. Across the way Gloria Guinness was sliding out of her chair on to the floor. Everyone was going up in foam and thunder.

Diana Vreeland

“With fabrics, we do what we can. Balenciaga does what he wants” 

Christian Dior

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion is on at the V&A from 27th May to 18th February 2018