// Alexandra May Jewellery rss

Balenciaga: Iconoclast, Artist and 'The Master'.

by Alexandra May | May 24, 2017 | 0 Comments

Hiro (b.1930) Alberta Tiburzi in 'envelope' dress by Cristobal Balenciaga, Harpers Bazaar,June 1967 ©Hiro 1967

When Balenciaga moved to Paris he established himself as 'The Master', a man who created couture art and dressed the elegant and the wealthy. His atelier window was decorated with Janine Janet sculptures rather than examples of his own designs which perhaps helps the reader shift their focus to Balenciaga as an artist and an aesthete rather than a fashion designer.

 X Ray photography of evening dress, silk taffeta, Cristobal Balenciaga, Paris, 1955. X -Ray by Nick Veasy, 2016.

It's easy to forget that fashion is an art form, especially with mainstream mass production reducing beauty to a disposable commodity.

Balenciaga refused to buy into this. He needed the patronage of the wealthy (although he railed against it!) because the work he did was extremely labour intensive, and to an extent the women he dressed needed to have time as well as money, to allow for their numerous fittings.

Since time immemorial artists have had both patrons and muses, and Balenciaga was no different.

Balenciaga was a sculptor of fabric who was considered to be the leader in his field by others and in turn considered the fabric to be his own master. He was a ground breaker with his innovations of volume and re proportioning of the body. He invented the shift dress, the baby doll dress, the body stocking, pattered tights and his vision was constantly forging ahead.

 'Baby Doll' cocktail dress, cape de chine, lace and satin, Cristobal Balenciaga, Paris , 1968 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Balenciaga's time in Paris, for many years was a triumphant one. He 'worked like a 'dog' as he himself said, giving his all and constantly pushing boundaries and reinventing and developing his ideas.

The 1960's bought with it the advent of ready to wear clothing, and a greater than ever emphasis on youth. The time of elegance, couture and a certain type of wealth was past.

If he had been younger Balenciaga would have been able to rise to the occasion in changing the direction of his work, coping with increasing bureaucracy necessary to run a business and also deal with the turning of the tide of the media and public against him and what they felt he represented.

However he felt that he had fought and struggled enough in his life, and retired completely. He died of a heart attack soon after, which, in my perhaps overly romantic interpretation seems very much like dying of a broken heart.

Evening mini-dress, metal wire and plastic pailettes, Paco Rabanne, Paris 1967. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The fashion house of Balenciaga near drifted into obscurity for many years, until its re-emergence under a series of incredibly talented designers. For the Autumn-Winter collection of 2006 Nicolas Ghesquiere made his homage to The Master taking pieces from the archive and reimagining them for the 21st century

...' the noble Spanish couturier died in 1972 but with a little help from Nicolas Ghesquiere...the Balenciaga vision became as fresh and modern as anything on the winter 2006 runway' Susie Menkes /The International Herald Tribune

Looking at the jewellery that I stock in the shop, I also see the work of artists. Designers who have a vision and work hard to realise it.

Rings, earrings and necklace all from 'You Missed it Collection' by Konplott.

Philippe Ferrandis is one such designer, creating his first collections for the House of Givenchy (who had such close ties with Balenciaga that journalists thought there were secret tunnels connecting the two couture houses) before following his personal creative needs and establishing his own atelier.

Necklace and earrings from 'Orient Express' collection by Philippe Ferrandis.

Other jewellery designers in Alexandra May that I also consider to be wonderful artists are Miranda Konstantinidou/Konplott, Jean Louis Blin, Heidi Bennett...well the list goes on and on!

Etruscan Urn Earrings by Jean Louis Blin

In this cycle of creation we must not forget our own role which is akin to the role of the modern patron, albeit on a smaller scale. People such as myself and my lovely customers who see a piece of jewellery not simply as something to make us look and feel fabulous, but as an item that someone has spent time and love creating and will hold its value like any other objet d'art.

Necklace and Earrings from 'Samarai Bloom' Collection. Ring from 'Alien Caviar' Collection. All by Konplott.

As the work of Balenciaga shows, true art survives all trends and fashions. 

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion is at the V&A from 27th May 2017-18th Feb 2018 van.ac.uk/balenciaga 

Posted in 1960's, artist, atelier, baby doll dress, body stocking, couture, couture jewellery, Cristobal Balenciaga, design, fashion as art, fashion innovations, givenchy, graphics, iconoclast, Janine Janet, Jean Louis Blin, jewellery as art, Konplott, Konplott earrings, Konplott necklace, Nick Veasy, Nicolas Ghesquiere, objet d'art, Paco Rabanne, patterned tights, philippe ferrandis, Philippe Ferrandis earrings, pink earrings, pink necklace, red earrings, red necklace, red ring, sculptor, sculpture, shift dress, Spanish Couturier, Susie Menkes, V&A, Victoria and Albert Museum, visionary fashion

Balenciaga: The Spanish Influence

by Alexandra May | May 11, 2017 | 0 Comments


Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) Flamenco-style evening dress, Cristobal Balenciaga, Paris, 1961. Photograph 1971.© Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's.


The only silver spoon that Cristobal Balenciaga was born with was that of talent, and the birthright of a country filled with inspiration, history and stimuli.

Balenciaga was from Getaria, a fishing town in the Basque province of Gipuzkoa. His mother was a seamstress, his father a fisherman who died when Cristobal was very young. He spent his childhood learning from his mother while she worked, until he was apprenticed to a tailor when he was twelve.

In his teens his patron and client, Marchioness de Casa Torres sent him to Madrid where he was formally trained in tailoring. 

All of  this provided a foundation for one of the few couturiers in fashion history who could design, cut, and sew an item from scratch

'La Tulipe' evening dress, gazar, Balenciaga for EISA, Spain,1965. Made for Ava Gardner © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

His first runway collection shown at his Avenue George V Atlelier, where he moved when the Spanish Civil War forced the move of his operation to Paris, was inspired by Spanish Renaissance. This was the start of many interpretations of various aspects of Spanish culture that Balenciaga was to make throughout his career. His ‘Infanta Gown' for instance, was inspired by the costumes of young Spanish princesses from portraits by Diego Velazquez and the short, heavily ornamented ‘jacket of light’ traditionally worn by toreadors; his signature colours were Goyaesque pink with black; he drew  on Spanish regional dress seen in the balloon skirts of women from ibiza, for his Autumn 1950 collection; and his love of drapery, wrapping at the hip or flying from the shoulders, has been traced to the robes tumbling around the saints in Zurabaran's canvases.

Bolero Jacket, Velvet with felt and velvet appliqué and beading, Balenciga for EISA, Spain. 1947. © Museo Cristolbal Balenciaga.

Our Madrid based designer, Anton Heunis unsurprisingly also gains inspiration from his Spanish environment and interestingly enough worked with a pupil of Balenciaga, Emmanuel Ungaro.

Thumbing through the book created by Anton for his tenth anniversary, one can see photographs of his own precious antique toreador jacket, montages of local culture and wonderful rich Spanish renaissance colours.

Earrings and Necklace by Jean Louis Blin

Another of our designers who is based in Madrid is Ricardo Douaihi. Richardo channels Spain’s historical inspiration through the rich, stiff crochet that forms the basis of his magnificent jewellery.

Balenciaga invented the high collar which highlights the neckline and of course, any necklace being worn. It’s fascinating reading about Balenciaga whilst relating it to the Spanish based jewellery designers we have, and also to the beautiful Spanish woman, Claudia that works for me and who is acting as the shops model for this blog.

Bracelet by Extastia, Necklace and earrings by Anton Heunis 

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion, sponsored by American Express, at the V&A from 27 May 2017 – 18 February 2018. vam.ac.uk/balenciaga



Posted in anton heunis, Balenciaga, Cecil Beaton, couturiers, Cristobal Balenciaga, design, Diego Velazquez, dramatic necklace, elegance, flamenco, Getaria, history, infanta, Madrid, renaissance, renaissance colours, ricardo douaihi, rich colours, short jacket, sotheby's, Spanish Civil War, spanish renaissance, toreador, tradition, ungaro, V&A, velvet

Excitement Building for 'Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion' Exhibition!

by Alexandra May | April 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

Architect in Planning,
Sculptor in Form,
Painter in Colour,
Musician in Harmony,
Philosopher in Entirety.

Cristobal Balenciaga.

Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) Cristobal  Balenciaga at Work, Paris 1968.
 © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos

I’ve been a supporter of the Victoria and Albert Museum for many years. They are a wonderful museum and a phenomenal resource, often giving me access to their archives during my years studying at London School of Fashion. The exhibitions there are guaranteed to be astounding, with the Galliano being a particular past favourite (although my staff beg to differ with me on that one, as they preferred the McQueen show).
Thus I’m beside myself with excitement about the upcoming Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion exhibition at The Victoria and Albert Museum. With appellations such as the ‘King of Fashion’ and the ‘Inventor of Couture’, to his work and ability to inspire, Cristobel Balenciaga is pure legend.

Richard Avendon (1904-2004) Elsie Daniels with street performers suit by Balenciaga, Cafe des Deux Magots, Paris 1955.
© The Richard Avendon Foundation

The mire of copyright legalities regarding images can be a horror to negotiate and I’ve generally avoided it by getting creative and taking my own photographs. In this particular instance however I would have felt very restricted if I couldn't use specific and related pictures.
With this in mind I contacted the V&A and asked if I could write a blog about the exhibition and was totally overjoyed when they said I could reference them in my blog AND use some of their images.  I’ve decided that I have to do a series of features on this wonderful man, as one blog simply won’t cover it!
I’ll be looking  at Cristobal Balenciaga and his Spanish heritage, then move onto his Parisian days…and of course write up the exhibition.

Richard Avendon (1923-2004) Dovima with Sacha, cloche and suit by Balenciaga, Cafe des Deux Magots, Paris, 1955.© The Richard Avendon Foundation. 

It will be fascinating to weave the relevant inspirations together, especially as the designers in my shop have both direct and indirect links with Balenciaga’s heritage. Things to look forward to now I'm back from my much needed break in Bali!

Irving Penn (1917-2009) Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn wearing coat by Cristobal Balenciaga, 1950.
© Conde Nast/Irving Penn Foundation  

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion, sponsored by American Express, at the V&A from 27 May 2017 – 18 February 2018. vam.ac.uk/balenciaga

Posted in 1950s style, Balenciaga, Cartier-Bresson, catwalk, couture, Cristobal Balenciaga, Exhibition, fashion, fashion photography, fashion trends, hollywood jewellery, Inspiration, Irving Penn, Kensington, London, Madrid, Madrid designers, Paris, Spanish Heritage, V&A, Victoria and Albert Museum

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