Perfection and structure: if we were to choose two words to describe Cristóbal Balenciaga’s influence on fashion, it might be those. While he opened his first boutique in 1919, it wasn’t until after World War II that Balenciaga’s true influence on fashion manifested. A quiet introvert himself, his clothes were anything but. Though he closed his design house in 1968 and passed away in 1972, he continues to influence and inspire fashion today.
Much of the 1950s’ most memorable fashion photography came about thanks to Balenciaga. His creative and technical expertise was well known before World War II, but he gained traction after the war. Starting in 1951 and continuing throughout the decade, Balenciaga revolutionized fashionable silhouettes: the balloon jacket, the tunic dress, the chemise, the cocoon coat, the balloon skirt, the baby doll dress, the sack dress, the empire waist. These innovative and bold looks made striking black and white photographs in fashion magazines. They stood out from the typical fifties ultra-feminine dresses. The progression of designs from the tunic dress to the baby doll dress can be seen as precursors to Mary Quant and her sixties
friends’ mini skirts and shifts. “On that evidence alone, Balenciaga can, with justification, be called the father of late 20th-century fashion,” wrote Colin McDowell for The Business of Fashion.
Indeed, Balenciaga continues to inspire well into the 21st century. Molly Goddard’s A/W17 dresses and skirts could be seen as the natural progression of what Balenciaga’s designs might have looked liked today, with bold structure and hidden waists. Fluffy cocoon coats at MaxMara are an update to Balenciaga’s own ballooning coats. Naturally, his own label, resurrected in 1987 and currently helmed by Demna Gvasalia, continues to use his innovative structuralism for inspiration. Undeniably, Cristóbal Balenciaga can still claim paternity of some of today’s fashion.
Want more Balenciaga inspiration? Check out the V&A’s retrospective, Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion, on now until February 18, 2018.
Featured image via The Red List