Comme des Garçons, Balenciaga Paris Exhibitions

Thursday April 12, 2012 – Les Docks – cité de la Mode et du Design

Twinned with the Kawakubo expo at Les Docks , a new design and cultural center on the eastern fringes of Paris, is “Cristóbal Balenciaga: Collectionneur de Modes,” documenting the collecting habits of another fashion great, and how treasures from the 18th and 19th centuries influenced his designs.

Given carte blanche to exhibit her 33 looks in a rectangular, industrial space, Kawakubo chose to encase her dresses, styled exactly like the runway, in clear plastic bubbles.

“I was interested to put the clothes of this collection in a different environment to the show. I thought about making a second space within the existing as it was a new space of the city of Paris,” she told WWD. “I would be happy if people felt that ‘White Drama’ has become even more dramatic.”

Saillard said giving such proximity to the clothes reveals intricacies impossible to divine from clicking through images on the Internet. To wit: Small sequins glisten on a delicate lace top, and the fabric roses trapped in tulle sacks on a bubble skirt are not, in fact, all white, but blushing peach and lemon yellow.

The Balenciaga exhibition next door, underwritten by Balenciaga and its parent PPR, has a more academic feel, the clothes and artifacts displayed in industrial shelving and drawers, similar to how museums actually store their reserves.

In fact, the exhibition displays a bounty donated to Galliera, shown for the first time, and 40 years after the acclaimed couturier’s death. It includes about 40 couture coats and dresses designed by Balenciaga from 1937 to 1968, along with the costumes, fabrics and books he collected.

He, like Kawakubo, possessed an “independent spirit,” Saillard said, showing off the famous sloping “Darth Vader” hat from 1967 that was actually inspired by what Spanish fisherman wore to keep rain off their necks.

Juxtaposed against historic costumes, the modernity of Balenciaga’s designs is striking. The extravagant  of an evening coat festooned with black velvet ribbons and lace, circa 1900, was distilled into a tea dress in broderie anglaise that could be worn today, even though it was designed in 1939.

Balenciaga’s dense monochromatic embroideries and dramatic volumes echo some of what’s seen next door , although the sleeves of the Spanish designer’s monastic evening coat, inspired by liturgical garments, do not graze the floor like Kawakubo’s.

Three more off-site exhibitions, including one devoted to couture at city hall here, and three performance works starring Tilda Swinton, before it reopens on the Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie, likely with a show devoted to Azzedine Alaïa.

The exhibitions start on April 13 through October 07, 2012

Les Docks – cité de la Mode et du Design
34 quai d’Austerlitz
75013 Paris
Tél. : 01 76 77 25 30

See all the photos below:

Photos via WWD

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