While in Paris recently, I went to an exhibition at the design hub Docks en Seine on the tailoring of Cristobal Balenciaga and Comme des Garcons. These two fashion houses do not seem like obvious bedfellows, however what really struck me was the attention to detail of these designers in the cut and quality of materials. As a bespoke designer I am always fascinated by the inspiration and approach of other couturiers, so I loved the parallels that were drawn between the simple shapes and bold silhouettes favoured by each brand to very different effect.
The Balenciaga exhibit showcased the designer’s fascination with late 19th Century womenswear, from corsetry to capes and almost always in dramatic black, sumptuous materials. The emphasis was on simplifying shapes to their most pure form and using gorgeous fabric and embellishment to make each piece unique.
By contrast the Commes des Garcons show was all bright white, modernity and clean rows of garments. As ever with this brand there was an emphasis on fantasy and clothes as artistic expression in the collection, but the joy of Rei Kawakubo is her ability to make the seemingly absurd suddenly appear wearable. As with the Balenciaga garments, there was an homage to traditional design blended with a modern and daring approach through the cut, proportion and fabric.
For me Balenciaga comes into his own with effortlessly chic evening wear and I left feeling refreshed with ideas for beautiful little details on cocktail dresses and inspired to try new materials in classic shapes. His work seems both timeless and modern which is no mean feat, particularly 50 years on from when these garments were first shown.
In an era where clothes are churned out to reflect ever changing trends on the high street, I often feel that they become disposable and meaningless – for me there is no joy in buying a garment that is poorly made with little effort in design and cheap materials. The focus on ‘celebrity’ fashion lines is diluting the respect for the craft of dress making and contributing to the loss of designers who truly know the value of a well cut pattern and high quality materials. These collections were a breath of fresh air in their attitude to the skills and care put into every piece and a strong reminder for me of why I love fashion and became a designer to begin with.
The exhibition will be on until Sunday 7th October 2012.← Back to the Journal