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Annie - San Francisco, CA

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Entries in Balenciaga (7)

Friday
Dec302011

Goodbye Eleven, Hello Twelve!

Just like everyone else, this week has been about looking back at the past year and giving it some thought. In my case, I was reminded once again of what a banner year 2011 has been for me and Poetic & Chic. I am still amazed at all of the wonderful opportunities and people that came my way this year, and which have developed into more good things to come in the next year! I'm filled with gratitude for all of it.

In 2011, I continued my intermittent series of Bang Envy posts, P&C Questionnaires, and of course the Postcard of the Week. Of all of them, I was surprised to learn that the postcards mean the most to my readers. At a recent gathering, I was told time and again about how much people look forward to the postcards and the little stories I dig up about them. Nothing could have been more enlightening! The postcards rarely seem to get comments, but I was told this was because they go "too deep" and bring up so many things that it's difficult to put together a response. To me, they are a little bit of ephemera - a little journey to take at mid-week. It's always interesting where they lead me, which I suppose makes them equally interesting to all of you. I'm so happy to learn that they are appreciated.

The year began with a bang for me, as I interviewed two very famous people on THE SAME DAY. What are the chances? The first was Vogue Magazine's European Editor at Large, Hamish Bowles, about his exhibit, Balenciaga & Spain at the de Young Museum. This was a privilege that I will cherish and remember forever. I sincerely hope our paths cross again some day.

My second interview that day was with the very talented Darren Criss, who plays Blaine on Glee. Darren and I are alumni of the same high school, so the interview was ostensibly for our alumni magazine but premiered on my blog. All I can say is this: if you ever want an explosion of blog traffic, write about a teen idol. Suddenly my interview was copied and posted all over the internet (without permission), and now I'm even one of the links on Darren Criss' Wikipedia page. Oh my.

Riding the momentum form these two wonderful interviews, I ended up getting nominated, and even reaching the top 3 fashion blogs on the SF Weekly Web Awards. This honor was totally unexpected and I still feel undeserving, but it was so nice to be recognized in this way! Because of this, I was invited to host a little Fashion's Night Out gathering at Jonathan Adler, which was such fun for the gang of bloggers and stylists I have come to know and love this year. Likewise, I was equally honored to have my first feature story in Matchbook Magazine this December, as a lead-in for the San Francisco Fashion Film Festival which will happen next Spring. All of these things were more than I ever expected this year.

Of course, the main even of the year for me was the 5th anniversary of Poetic & Chic. When I launched this site in 2006 I had no idea I'd still be here this many years later. I cannot even believe it myself! So, when some friends suggested that I throw a party for this milestone, I could only agree. What a wonderful night! I'm so happy so many people came out to celebrate, and honored that so many of my creative friends sent me their "fives" for the blog... The whole occasion is something I will treasure.

Here are some of my other favorite posts of the year...

The Best of 2011:

Coachella Style: Does Anyone Care?

Speculation: Miss Middleton's Wedding Dress

Life Lessons From Working Girl

Picasso, The Steins, and Modern Art in San Francisco

Cheetah Chic

On the Make: Glitter Reduxed

Influences: The Winged Messenger

Fashion's Night Out at Jonathan Adler

Influences: Cleopatra

Here's to an equally fulfilling 2012 with more challenges and opportunities, new work, creativity, fun, and friendship! Once again, I feel that this quote bears repeating, especially at the top of a new year! Sending lots of love and best wishes to everyone for the New Year!

Thursday
Mar242011

Bon Weekend!

I'm off to see the long-awaited Balenciaga & Spain at the de Young Museum this morning and I promise to let you know ALL about it soon afterwards! OLÉ!

Then, I'm off to the wine country for the next few days, hoping for some much-deserved relaxation, quiet, and delicious meals with the family. Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Sunday
Mar202011

My Dream Maze of Balenciaga

Cristobal Balenciaga, 1963 - FAMSF bequest of Jeanne MagninThe de Young's newest fashion exhibition, Balenciaga & Spain, opens this coming Friday, and clearly the anticipation is getting to me. I dreamt about the opening just before fully waking up today - one of those ultra-vivid late-morning dreams. As I've mentioned before, I usually dream in color, and while my dreams may be stylish (kissing Lapo Elkann anyone?), they are definitely a bit odd.

I began in Golden Gate Park, near the de Young, but it wasn't any Golden Gate Park I've ever visited. This one had a river going through it, and small footbridges with souvenir vendors on them. The bridges were so small that barely two people could pass by. This made things difficult because there were lots and lots of people in the park, and trying to buy the souvenirs on the bridge. I'm not sure what I was doing in the park, but it was a nice day. Maybe I was just on a walk? I think so, because I was in my sneakers, baggy jeans and a big puffy parka.

As I made my way over one footbridge, which was actually more like a dirt path, I passed Anna Wintour who seemed to be waiting paitiently in a pale embroidered coat (with de rigeur dark glasses & bob) among a group private school boys in uniform. I thought, "hunh, why is Anna Wintour here?" I also passed some of the "mean girls" from my school days, one of whom said: "Fashion bloggers in San Francisco? There's like...none!" To which I replied, "Thanks a lot." To which she replied, "Yeah, nice outfit." To which I replied, "Yeah, you've always been a bitch," thinking this final remark made me triumphant.

Salon of Balenciaga Paris - Mark Shaw, 1954

Arriving at the museum (finally), I realized I was terribly late. Late? I had forgotten that this was the opening day of the exhibit. It was like those awful dreams of high school when you can't get to your class or find your books, only to finally get there and learn you have to take a test. Pure purgatory. Realizing my tremendous and embarrassing faux pas, I could hear Hamish Bowles giving his introduction from the next room. As I tried to maneuver closer, I found myself face-to-face with an impervious socialite wearing an opulently-beaded emerald green gown that had a towering headdress and veil. It was sort of like the creepy mirror-faced figure from Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon, except in gorgeous green and not so frightening. That is to say, at least she had a face, not a mirror.

Panicked, and realizing I was totally underdressed, (no wonder Emerald Green and the mean girls didn't like me) I felt completely defeated. What would the other members of the press think? More importantly, what would Hamish Bowles think? The lights were on, people were milling around and giving ooohs and aaahs over the historic fashion, and I was completely out of place. What was I, a fashion imposter, doing there? This terrifying thought was enough of a kick to wake me up and get me out of my labyrinth, thankfully.

Clearly I have issues. A fashion inferiority complex is just one of them.

Friday
Jan212011

Hamish Bowles talks Balenciaga & Spain

Opening on March 26th, Mr. Hamish Bowles' new exhibition Balenciaga and Spain brings over 100 pieces of priceless haute couture to the de Young museum. Expanding the retrospective from its showing at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute in New York (that exhibit offered only 50 pieces), the exhibition will highlight the master couturier's work through traditional Spanish themes.

As Mr. Bowles' was in town this week to prepare for the exhibition, I was lucky enough to sit down with him and learn more about the inscrutible designer and Mr. Bowles himself.

Balenciaga, Bolero jacket of burgundy silk velvet and jet passementerie embroidery by Bataille, winter 1946.
Collection of Hamish Bowles, photograph by Kerry Komer.

P&C: Allow me to begin by reading you this quote from Francine du Plessix Gray's novel October Blood, which is overall an enteraining satire on Carmel Snow...

"In the center of the living room there sometimes sat Cristobal Balenciaga, Mother’s best friend in Paris, dolorously sipping chamomile tea. Infrequently exposed to clothes other than his own, he mostly came to curse at the vulgarity of the costumes being paraded in Mother’s suite. He was a thin, depressed, nomadic Spaniard with perennial dark glasses and some twelve houses spread over the map of Europe, all of which he hated. He would spend a few days at his hacienda in Seville and leave it, complaining of the noise, go to his chalet in Switzerland to cure his sinuses and sell it the following morning, complaining of the insects. His only passion besides his work was looking for antiques, and he could spend a month piling up Renaissance tables and Persian rugs to furnish a flat in Barcelona which he’d leave after a night because he disliked the Gaudi building across the street. He traveled everywhere with a long-haired dachshund called Zurbarán and carried in his pocket several immaculate linen handkerchiefs with which he wiped the dog’s bottom after each sidewalk performance. When he and my mother greeted each other every summer he would scrutinize her dress with a tragic air, hands on her shoulders, to be sure that she was wearing one of his originals, and then tug at different parts of her collar, sleeves, waistline to show that she was not wearing it properly.”

Is this an accurate description?

Hamish Bowles: (Laughs) Bettina Ballard does describe him as obsessed with antiqueing, piling up antique rugs... yes, that he was constantly working on apartments in Madrid, and then not being able to sleep there because of the noise… It is very true to say that he could not understand the clothes produced by his contemporaries. By extension, couldn’t understand why his friends & clients would choose to wear them.

There is a story in Bettina Ballard['s autobiography In My Fashion] – about an occasion where Balenciaga was accompanying Ballard to an event and she asked him to do up the back of her Dior dress, which had 30 buttons up the back… He kept muttering "Christian est complétement fou!"- "he's completely mad!" So, there are some very funny resonances. But he (Balenciaga) disdained from involving himself in the public side of the house, focusing on the technical, behind the scenes work & producing the clothes themselves… For special friends he would be involved in the fittings.

In fact, it was sort of a nightmare! He shared with Chanel this obsession with the way a sleeve was set. He would sort of torment his tailors – they would have to take sleeves in and out time & time again. Bettina Ballard has a funny story about this suit that she was having made, [it] was so battered & bruised by his constant thing, that she ended up wearing the perfectly made, line for line copy that was made by Ben Zuckerman – one of the very high end 7th Avenue copyists – she wore HIS suit, and Balenciaga never noticed.... He was a fastidious technician.

Cristobal Balenciaga circa 1952, copyright Bettmann/CORBIS images

From your description in the intro, it was more about how reclusive he was; I find that’s so common when you read about Yves Saint Laurent, or Chanel, - these people were sort of crotchety, and known for being in their own bubble of a world. Is that a factor for being a design genius in a way?

I don’t think so. I think a lot of Balenciaga’s contemporaries were extremely… they flourished in social situations. Jacques Fath gave endless parties, Dior even. I certainly think that Chanel in her day was extraordinarily social, and sort of a lynch-pin of a certain kind of artistic society in Paris in the old days. (I mean she did become sort of a crotchety old woman late in life,)… Saint Laurent had his own demons to contend with.

Balenciaga was naturally quite shy. He had an intimate circle of friends, mostly people he was involved with through his work. He just didn’t have time for a mundane life really, or the inclination for it. His great partner in life – D’Attainville, died in 1948, and Balenciaga became sort of increasingly retiring after that.  But I think his focus was just on his work, perfecting & honing his craft.

I loved what you said about how he would use his client’s physical quirks to develop a specific design detail…shortening the sleeves, doing a special collar. Today, when you see designers work on Project Runway for instance, they’re stumped when faced with a "real" body type. Do you think that that is something that can be learned, or did Balenciaga have a natural talent for it? Can you practice at that and learn how to design for your clients in a more specific way, using not the standard stick-figure model?

I think that Balenciaga’s whole apprenticeship and training was as a tailor and then as a dressmaker. In that capacity, his entire working life would have been one-on-one interactions with clients. Day-in, day-out he would be making clothes to fix specific body types, and you know for clients that would each have strong opinions about what their physical assets (and debits) were, and they would conspire together to enhance or minimize those as the case might be. That was his whole training.

When he opened his own couture house in Spain, he would go to Paris to buy the sample garments of the designers whom he admired, and he would bring those back to his couture establishments in San Sebastian and Barcelona and Madrid, and he would adapt those to the needs & demands of his clients. So I think that he’s constantly aware of different body types, and I think that in his collections he was careful to put in things that would suit, that would be adaptable to clients with different needs and looks and body types.

It’s a different world today. He was making – he was doing couture. Each garment that he made was made specifically for a client. So, it’s like made-to-measure.  In ready to wear, it’s not so easy to do that. And I think also body types have changed in a way, but it’s just a different craft; it’s bespoke and ready-to-wear and they’re just worlds apart.

Balenciaga, house photograph of evening ensemble.
Dress of black silk crepe with "chou" wrap of black silk gazar. Winter, 1967. Balenciaga archives.

What do you think about the end of couture? Do you think it will ever disappear? There’s a lot of fear about that today, I know that Chanel has been buying up a lot of the different craft houses like Lesage and opening the schools…Do you think that there will always be a couture market?

I think there will always be clients that want very special pieces and can afford to acquire them. I think that couture, like everything, will mutate. I think there are a lot of younger designers who wouldn’t necessarily consider themselves to be couturiers per se, who’re certainly using couture techniques and maybe a couture approach in their work. And, I certainly think that, now more than ever there’s a real interest in embroidery and embellishment and the possibilities of pleating and all those kinds of techniques that are very very couture-based. I think there are lots of young people who are very keen to learn those crafts. It’s very striking to me, going into couture workrooms now, and going to Lesage and those great couture suppliers and seeing how many young people there are there that really want to learn those crafts, and that might not have been the case a decade or two ago. So that kind of gives one hope for the future.

And I think just the general kind of global engagement and fascination with fashion now that’s come thru the kind of television programs you’ve spoken to – and just the instantaneous dissemination of information through the internet I think has really widened the world of fashion and I think made people more intrigued by all kinds of different areas of fashion. I certainly think haute couture and special pieces are very much a part of that.

Balenciaga. Detail of cocktail dress of fuchsia silk shantung, black lace and black silk ribbons. Summer, 1966.
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Eleanor Christiansen de Guigne Collection. Photograph by Joe McDonald/FAMSF

Even with the expense of those kind of details? I remember in the Valentino documentary where he was going through his archive and he found this beautiful piece that had been done by Lesage and he said “You’d have to sell the bank of Italy to make that now”! The expense of it is getting astronomical, it seems.

Yes, it is. But there will always be women who just want that special thing and can afford to pay for it. You know, it’s like a custom sports car, or a rich-person’s toy…or art. So, I think there’s always a place for it, yes.

It is of course a very costly thing to do. Despite the cost of these garments, it’s a major loss-leader for any house. I think there are new ways of doing embroidery. I think there are incredible embroideries coming out of India that will change some of the pricing levels of that particular craft. And China, and so on. There are all kinds of approaches. And the wonderful thing about fashion is that it constantly mutates and reinvents itself – that’s the point of it. I think an approach to couture is something that will change like that too.

With that in mind, I was thinking about what you said about how long the shows were for Balenciaga. There were 200 models and they would take about 2 hours. Whereas today, there’s a maximum (usually in ready-to-wear only) but a maximum of 35 – 40 looks, they’re on and off the runway in 15 or 20 minutes, and then the line gets edited further before it ever goes to market. So, what do you think about that? Is there room for these designers to create and develop given the constraints of the season?

You have to think that in a Balenciaga show like that he’s basically showing his collection, his pre-collection, he’s showing everything that would be today in a designer’s showroom. It would be the options for the buyers that exist in the showroom off the runway, but he’s just showing the entire collection.

It’s so funny watching the videos of some of those shows, which luckily exist from the 1960s – I think 1960 – 1968, because clients get up in the middle of a show. You know, they have a hair appointment or a lunch at the Plaza D’Athénée, they leave and then sometimes come back…you know, for evening dresses or something. Or they’re just there because they need a coat or something, so they don’t need to stay for the cocktail dresses. It’s really funny – they sort of come & go. But you know there was no music. It was very austere, certainly couldn’t take photographs, you couldn’t sketch. You could just write down the number of the dress the mannequin was holding in her hand.

Gruau for Balenciaga, 1949.

I was thinking about the sketching and fashion illustration…I’m a big fan of Gruau, and he did a lot of wonderful images of Balenciaga; I feel like fashion illustration is something you don’t really see any more. It’s still taught, and it’s something that people dabble in, but it’s not really the art form used the way it was 50 years ago - as a commercial art form. Everything is photography-based now. So do you think that could ever come back – the fashion illustration?

Ah…I think it’s unlikely myself. I think great fashion illustrators will emerge and hopefully their work will be showcased in an appropriate way. I think that in the 20s & 30s often a detailed line drawing was a much more exact and precise way of describing an outfit than a photograph that might have had indeterminate reproduction in a magazine. So, informationally it had a different weight. We just live in a different world. I love illustration, fashion illustration myself – I’m very excited to see it.

I come out of the luxury fashion world, and I wondered what you think of this new world of the corporate fashion of LVMH and PPR group, and would a brand like Balenciaga have survived that?

Well, Balenciaga always resisted any kind of licensing agreement. Where Dior, Balmain, Jacques Fath all had licensees in America doing sort of high-end American ready-to-wear lines, he refused ever to do that. He refused any kind of endorsement. But still, his business was run along remarkably sound lines, so he just didn’t feel the need to do it. So I can’t imagine that he would want to be involved in the kind of corporate structures that now exisit, but he certainly had a very keen business sense and his business was very very well run and very profitable.

He had a hard-scrabble background, he was very pragmatic in the way he set up his companies. You know, clearly careful and scrupulous with money, to where it managed the way his businesses were run. He had business partners early on. The histories of those relationships are not that well documented…

Luchino Visconti's "The Leopard", 1963

I was recently watching The Pink Panther, and I found out that Yves Saint Laurent did the costumes for the principal characters.

Only for Claudia Cardinale. I think Givenchy did Capucine, and Saint Laurent did Claudia Cardinale...

I was wondering if Balenciaga he had ever received movie offers? Because you’d think he would be ripe for partnering with Luis Bunuel, or …

He did the costumes for Arletty in a 40s movie called Boléro, and...a couple of his actress-clients wore his clothes in their movies rather than him actually costuming them. It just wasn’t something it seems to have interested him. It was something Dior and Balmain did, Jacques Fath did, Chanel did. I think he just wasn’t interested, really.

So, what film do you go back to over & over for inspiration that you find interesting each time?

The Leopard – I love The Leopard. As sort of fashion movies, I really like The Red Shoes – it has great costuming. L’Année Dernière à Marienbad… I could always watch The Women...

Do you have more film projects yourself coming up? I know you were in Marie Antoinette, and Gossip Girl most recently…

And Wall Street 2… I don’t have any plans, but it’s always fun to be asked.

Do you ever think about writing or directing?

That would be intriguing, yes. Both of those options would be intriguing, yes.

And what about Oscars? Do you watch them, at home, or do you go?

I certainly watched the Golden Globes, I was much engaged. I’ve never been no, but I enjoy watching them.

What about the Royal Wedding coming up in April? Any thoughts on Kate Middleton? Are you a fan…?

I think she’s played it all very well, indeed. She’s stayed inscrutable which is a great challenge this day and age.

Do you think she’ll go with the Emmanuel’s?

No. I can’t imagine she would want to associate herself that closely with her late future mother in law. You know, it will be interesting to see. I think she’s made very sensible choices so far. So it will be intriguing. I wait with breath baited.

As we close, what do you recommend for any kind of a young designer, or even a writer, who writes about fashion & culture and things like that…What’s a good way to develop your visual sense, or your aesthetic sense? What’s a good way to gain exposure?

I think it’s just sort of saturating yourself in what’s going on in contemporary culture and going to museums and art galleries, and going to the theatre if you can, and certainly going to the cinema. I think it’s just being open to all kinds of cultural influences and zeitgeist – that’s how the zeitgeist is created. So, just being sensitive to that.

Balenciaga. Suit of mustard yellow linen; Summer, 1950. Collection of Hamish Bowles.
Photograph by Joe McDonald/FAMSF

And what was your first exposure to Balenciaga?

My first exposure, well, I was aware of him, and then the first piece I bought for my collection I was about 11 or 12 I think, was an early 60s Balenciaga suit at a charity sale. And, at the same sale there was a bolero – it was for a ballet company. A bolero had been donated by Margot Fonteyn, the great prima ballerina, and it was auctioned and sold for 60 pounds which was far more; it was 120 weeks worth of pocket money – so I couldn’t afford that.

But, incredibly enough, about 5 or 6 years ago I went to a vintage store in Los Angeles and found the same – I found the jacket there, and it’s going to be in the exhibition. It’s a wonderful matador-inspired bolero and a detail of the embroidery is the dust-jacket for the catalog. So you’re going to see it in all its glory!

Balenciaga and Spain opens at the de Young museum on March 26th.

Friday
Jan212011

What I Wore: Vintage Pucci

Dress: Emilio Pucci for Frost Bros.

Boots: Louis Vuitton

Tights: Linda Allard for Ellen Tracy

Rings: Burberry & Kenneth Jay Lane

Necklace: vintage, found at the Paris flea market

This post could also be titled "To Meet Someone Famous, Part II"... This morning I'm heading over to the de Young museum to meet one-on-one with the wonderful Hamish Bowles of Vogue magazine. Mr. Bowles is in town to finalize some details for his Balenciaga show that opens in March, and I am one of the lucky people who gets to spend some time with him!

When I was asked to interview him today, I kind of went into a panic. Never more has the question of "what should I wear?" been more urgent, and I already wore my very best Louis Vuitton sweater the first time I met him. Then, I remembered my vintage Pucci.

Although brightly colored in psychedlic purple, pink, cobalt, gray, and black, my vintage Pucci dress is a shy creature. It hangs at the back of my closet in a very safe place, usually with lots of tissue paper stuffed into its sleeves. Made for the Frost Bros. - a chain of high-end department stores based in Texas back in the day - this dress is a classic Pucci with giant sleeves and enormous pointed collar. While the silk is opulent, the lines are simple.

As any vintage collector will tell you, when you wear vintage the chances of tears and seam breakage are very real. As fabric and thread ages, it loses some of its integrity, so it's best to be careful. I have always been a little wary of my Pucci - not wanting to harm it in any way, nor wanting it to harm me with any sort of wardrobe failure. But, once I had it in mind for this event I was determined; I reinforced the seams and buttons, and now it's ready to go!

Now I just hope the rest of me is ready! Wish me luck - I'll fill you in on everything later!

Friday
Apr162010

Bon Weekend!

Balenciaga dress by René Gruau, 1955. Scanned by Ms. P&C.

Friday
Apr162010

Hamish Bowles & A New Balenciaga Exhibit

A few weeks ago I was fortunate to receive a special invitation from the de Young museum to stop by and meet Mr. Hamish Bowles, and to hear his announcement for a new costume exhibition that is being developed for the museum.

Hamish Bowles? You mean the darling of The Sartorialist, guy seen in The September Issue, one heartbeat away from Anna Wintour, Hamish Bowles? For those not so fashionably geeky, Mr. Bowles is the European Editor at Large for Vogue magazine and Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Living. The very prospect of meeting the man sent me into paroxysms of delight and panic. So exciting and so terrifying in one! What does one wear to such an event?

Luckily, I have some vintage Louis Vuitton in the deeper corners of my closet, so out it came. As did the very high heels. Not that I should have worried, Mr. Bowles was dressed as his usual dapper self and had style to spare: double-breasted deep blue suit, purple striped shirt (vertical stripes), purple striped tie (diagonal stripes), purple pocket square, and an understated Piaget watch. Affable and charming, he sprang from his chair every time someone new came to the room and gave each of us a warm welcome.

Hamish Bowles with some Balenciaga in the de Young's textile conservation lab.

After brief introductions from the de Young’s John Buchanan and Jill D’Alessandro, Mr. Bowles told us all about the Balenciaga retrospective slated for the spring of 2011. As someone with a vast personal collection of couture, and also an expert on Cristobal Balenciaga in particular, I cannot think of someone more fitting to curate this exhibition than Mr. Bowles. A scholar of fashion, design and culture, his experience is vast while his connections are many. He reminds me of the character Elliott Templeton from W. Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge; man of refined taste, kindness and wit, with exceptional entrée to society.

In one of my favorite moments, Mr. Bowles said: “Wintour was behind the idea of my doing it.” Blessings from on high! But wait, did he just call her Wintour? Awesome.

Suzy Parker wearing Balenciaga, photographed by Henry Clarke for the November 1953 cover of Vogue.

Mr. Bowles explained that the Balenciaga exhibit will focus on the couturier through the lens of Spanish culture, showing how the spirit of Spain impacted Balenciaga’s creations during his career. As the designer was forced to leave Spain for Paris in 1937, it is understandable that his patriotic nostalgia would come through in his designs. Art, religious life, the bullfight, flamenco, and regional dress all influenced Balenciaga, offering a frame a reference for his precisely engineered clothes. Balenciaga often gave a nod to vibrant Spanish textures, colors (particularly pink and black), and embellishments, while traditional shapes such as a Basque fisherman’s sweater were elevated to couture in a simple tweed suit. It is these simplest silhouettes, Mr. Bowles asserted, that are the most spectacular on the body.

Pink Silk Evening Dress, 1959 by Balenciaga.

“A fashion designer must be an architect for perspectives, a sculptor for shapes, a painter for color, a musician for harmony and a philosopher for sense of proportion.” - Balenciaga

Mr. Bowles also explained that Balenciaga’s great art is found in his engineering. Where an architectural Dior suit or gown would be reinforced by buckram or crinoline, ultimately weighing the garment down, a Balenciaga piece in a similar shape would be lighter than air. His ingenious draping and eye for shape made such magic effortless – both to create and to wear. One of the many intriguing anecdotes shared by Mr. Bowles involved a Balenciaga dressmaker, Madame Florette, who joined the house of Yves Saint Laurent when Balenciaga closed. With this move, the house of Saint Laurent suddenly received an infusion of effortlessly draped, voluminous pieces, all crafted by the master sewer who had worked under Balenciaga. Only Hamish Bowles would know the provenance of such things.

Mrs. Carmel Snow talks with Cristobal Balenciaga in 1952.

The Balenciaga retrospective will come to New York City this Fall, where approximately 55 objects will be shown. In the spring of 2011, the show will come to the de Young in San Francisco where it will expand to approximately 100 objects overall, all exclusively Balenciaga. Of these, about 12 to 15 will be from the de Young’s own costume archives.

Images from The Sartorialist; Condé Nast images; Met Museum.org; and Life.