Balenciaga Black: The Secret to Chic

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This is the secret chromatic field of chic. From his very first collections introduced in Paris, Cristóbal Balenciaga’s creations surprised onlookers with the intense black that perfectly fit his brand new lines. “In the beginning in Paris it wasn’t the cut of his garments that was most noticed but their color, black (…)”. “A deep and Spanish black, like velvet, like a night without stars,” said Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Balenciaga’s work is the result of strong Hispanic influences. This artist that fled the Spanish Civil War took care to inject his cultural heritage into rich compositions that were surprisingly simple. Everything bears witness to a desire to eliminate the superfluous, to construct then deconstruct each style, each sleeve, and then take everything back to square one. Simplicity was for him the quintessence of chic, and so the couturier found a chromatic expression of his art in black. Balenciaga extracted this color directly from the folkloric and traditional Spain of his childhood.

But in his hands, black becomes a fabric of its own. This extraordinary technician worked purity into brand new structural lines. In the early 50s, he imagined barrel lines, balloon lines, and semi-tailored lines before dazzling his clients with tunic lines and his legendary bag dress composed in 1957. Whether opaque or transparent, matte or shiny, black elevates these fabrics and perfects the visual simplicity of the cuts. With black, this “couturier of couturiers” seems to cultivate “the infinite possibilities and transformations” of the garment, awakening unexpected aspects of these fabrics. Like gazar, a fabric specially produced for the brand, or lace, Balenciaga’s favorite material, inspired by Goya’s portraits of Queen Maria Luisa. Black is everywhere, strong and magnificent. But while black holds a special place in Balenciaga’s work, it also leaves room for white and red, two of the label’s other favorite colors. These inspirations brought Christian Dior to say that “clothing was his religion”.

Cristóbal Balenciaga sought to modernize women’s wardrobes without ever abandoning glamour and propriety. With different textures, this architecture of clothing accentuated shapes to compose unique clothing. “Black is the color of style, of modernity, of restraint, of intellectualism, of mourning, of sensualism,” explained Karen Van Godtsenhoven, curator of the Musée de la Mode in Anvers. This is why different creative directors after him sought to work with color in all its intensity. Alexander Wang and his architectural reading of this heritage is one exampl. The latest is Denna Gvasalia. This dressmaker composed a collection for Fall/Winter 2017 where black embraces and lights up shapes and fabrics. A nod to the founder for the brand’s 100th anniversary, look #45 in the runway demonstrates this couture imagined for another modernity. The piece was worn by equally legendary model Alek Wek. In short, it’s a collection where black becomes a reference to better perfect the power of the volumes initiated by the founder of Balenciaga.


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