Monday, March 28, 2011

At the Altar of Balenciaga

Saturday was eight hours of deep Balenciaga immersion. Our plans worked perfectly. Karen and I were among the first ten people to enter the de Young at 9:30 am and we spent the next two hours soaking up the exhibit of over a hundred ensembles and accessories. The entry dress is a dream. A ruffled silk beauty of “singing pink” as Hamish Bowles, the show’s curator, describes it. Here’s a very blurry photo I surreptitiously took sans flash.

All his influences are referenced. We saw the ruffles from the Spanish dance, the traje de luces of the bullfight, the elaborate Lesage embroidery and beading of the Spanish Court, the practicality of regional dress (an overskirt that can be flipped up to become a cape) and the severity of the Catholic church. And while the influences are clear, his garments reflect his own unique elegant vision. 
We retraced our steps in the exhibit several times, seeing some new detail each time. Like the architectural quality of a kelly green evening jacket made with a single seam. We discussed what caught our eye or gave us a thrill imagining what it would be like to wear a certain evening ensemble.  With sensory overload, Karen and I revived ourselves with a delicious lunch in the museum cafe with a vegetable potage, grilled asparagus salad and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. 
Then off to the Balenciaga and Spain Symposium. Originally planned as three hours, it ended up being four intense no-intermission academic hours of Hamish Bowles speaking on the Power of Balenciaga’s Spanish Identity; Miren Arzalluz, curator of the Balenciaga Foundation, speaking on his origins; Lourdes Font, Spanish Court costume expert and Pamela Golbin, chief curator of the Musee de la Mode et du Textile at the Louvre talking about what it was like working at 10 Avenue George V, the address of Balenciaga.
By 4:45, our heads were swimming with information, but determined to not miss the opportunity of having Hamish sign our catalogs, we dutifully got in the book-signing queue. I Desperately wanted something clever to say to him. Instead I squeaked out “I really like your pocket square!”. He was charming, said thank you and even paused for a photo. Completely satiated we two fashion devotees headed out into the San Francisco twilight. 


  1. You have piqued my interest! I know nothing about Balenciaga, but now i want to learn more.

  2. Wow, what a day! I can't wait to learn more. Gotta go to that show, too.