I caught the Dior and Balenciaga exhibitions…
… while I was in Paris and in London upon my friend Queenie and my cousin Tina's recommendation. They were both the first items on my agenda for both cities and made for a beautiful (literally) way to kick off my travels.
I'm by no means a fashion-phile but I do appreciate a good museum (or two… or three…). I'm always on the lookout for design-related exhibitions and it just so happened that there were two ongoing shows during my trip.
My cousin had gone to London a few weeks before me and she caught the Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion feature at the V&A while she was there. I was instantly sold on how fascinating it was to see Spanish couturier Cristobal Balenciaga's process and just how technical and intricate his creations actually are.
It was my first time at the V&A and I was lucky I went when I did because the very next day, this very street became the scene of a car crash right by the Natural History Museum. 11 people were injured and there was also speculation about whether the incident was terrorist-related (it wasn't)—you can imagine just how many texts I got from home when that happened.
The show was incredibly tight—there were a lot of people. Occupying two floors, it took us through his early beginnings to his commissioned work to more famous pieces and to his influence on modern designers.
Definitely my favorite part of the exhibit, these tent dresses are ones I find super breathtaking. They look really simple but the sketches show just how much thought went into their creation. Timeless, fresh and modern, they look just as relevant today as they did when they first came out.
It can be slightly overwhelming, having to read all the text that comes in these exhibitions but I'm glad I caught this one—I love how cheeky "haughty trance" sounds.
The exhibition ends with a collection of contemporary designs that harken back to traditions and features spearheaded by Balenciaga—this voluminous, layered piece by Res Kawakubo has to be my favorite one.
Fast forward to my time in Paris, I spent a good hour and a half, on the Rue de Rivoli, staring up at these beautiful windows, chimneys and roofs, lined up for the Christian Dior: Couturier du Rêve show at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs right near the Louvre. I could have easily booked an advanced ticket online, but I was coming into Paris via train from Amsterdam and wasn't sure I would make it before the museum's closing (luckily, I did).
It's pretty entertaining, being a tourist lined up for museum tickets. Not only did I strike up a conversation with other latecomers, I also managed to practice my French by inadvertently eavesdropping on people around me :P
Christian Dior is an ubiquitous a name as it gets—everyone's experienced Dior in one way or another. The show starts out where Dior himself started, setting the scene for the incredible journey the designer takes from the start of his career onward and upward.
Just like the Balenciaga exhibit, this one was TIGHT and practically claustrophobic at some points. The corridors and alleys are dark, narrow and confined—highlighting the dresses and mannequins perfectly but also having you run into just about everyone in the room the entire time.
The show wouldn't have been complete without this classic Richard Avedon shot.
I had to stop and take a picture of all the magazine covers! Brings me back to a time when print wasn't as flailing an industry as it is now.
The scope of Dior's work is fascinating, and the show absolutely did it justice. Comprehensive and detailed, it paid tribute to every facet of the designer's career all the way up to the fashion house and its more current principals.
When I got to the garden part, I thought I'd found my most favorite spot of the show. The hanging plants, the embroidery, the cuts are the stuff wedding entourage / bridal dreams are made of.
But then I walked out of this area and moved right into a high-ceiling alcove that had a dizzying display of blacks and whites. I was literally spinning around here, trying to capture everything on video.
Little did I know that this atrium-like portion of the exhibition would lead to even MORE. I felt like a kid in a candy store, and I'm not even a hundred per cent into fashion, you know? I can only imagine what it would have been like for actual industry insiders to sneak a peek at all of this lusciousness.
There were halls that went on and on and on, displaying some of the most iconic and most recognized gowns from the House of Dior. The mirrors, cornices, tiles and windows coupled with the pieces were all set to dazzle and inspire.
The scale of the show was emphasized by how they played around with height, doubling up with platforms that rise up all the way to the ceiling.
I wasn't able to take an actual photo of the other hall that had iconic celebrity gowns on display (probably because I was googly-eyed at all that visual stimulation). The hall was a virtual light show too, with hues moving from cool and icy blues to warmer reds, shifting your perception of the dresses as color temperature changed.
I'm so glad I went to this show even if I was famished and fatigued. To have this be my first glance of Paris on my second time there was pretty spectacular.
I can only hope to see more shows like these the next time I make my way back to two of my favorite cities. These museum trips—especially for shows exhibitions this beautiful—are always, IMHO worth anyone's time and money.