Gazar, Balenciaga’s Iconic Fabric

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All of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s originality resides in his way of observing the body, clothing, and cuts. An architect at heart, this autodidact was able to develop a singular vision of couture. A visionary, Balencaiga went against the tide of fashion in his day, and couturiers of his generation recognized this talent. Christian Dior spoke of him as ‘the master of us all’, while Coco Chanel declared: “The only real couturier in his time since he knew how to draw, cut, mount on canvas, assemble and sew the clothing he made.” Cristóbal Balenciaga’s talent, combined with his Hispanic inspirations, brought the couturier to use colors like red, black, and white. This allowed him to do more than just show his technical prowess. Soon he would imagine a new look and turn the garment’s volumes upside down. The chest was plated, while the pelvis was projected forward to allow the prominent bones of the hips to appear. This was the birth of the barrel shape – the result: something ultra-sophisticated. It’s said that in the streets, every woman wearing creations by the Spanish master looked like a fashion engraving.

It was the early 60s, and the couturier of couturiers wanted to go even further in his exploration of shapes and command of fabrics. What he wanted was to be able to sculpt tissues as he saw fit. He entrusted a Swiss textile company with creating a fabric capable of responding to his sculptural demands. An issue of Vogue from the period said: “A large part of what he created in the 60s was possible thanks a fabric that was specially conceived for him in 1958 by his titled textile producer, the brand Abraham from Zurich. This fabric, gazar, and later super gazar, was a silk as stiff as aluminum that lent itself to the creation of architectural shapes.” Balenciaga’s iconic fabric was born. This ultra-tissue allowed him to make volumes in order to achieve shapes that were previously impossible – the secret: a simple woven silk tissue fabricated with double-twisted woven threads. At the same time, Balenciaga’s style was purified – the gazar four-cone dress imagined in Winter 1967 is the perfect illustration of this.

In that same year, in the same Fall/Winter 1967 collection, Cristóbal Balenciaga composed a wedding dress for Maria del Carmen Martinez-Bordiu, the granddaughter of Francisco Franco and future Duchess of Cadix. With her ‘veil’ of ivory gazar cut diagonally and a single central stitch running along the entire length of the back, this piece was the quintessence of style. Nicolas Ghesquière worked with this heritage on two different occasions for his Spring/Summer 2008 and 2012 collections – a postmodern vision of the geometric veil. “Balenciaga [had the] talent to put a dash of madness into the most elegant and sophisticated creations. […] One of the most spectacular was constituted of three balls of gazar – a very rigid silk specially created for Balenciaga – superposed green composed the silhouette of a sort of caterpillar woman,” explained Susan Irvine in her reference work Vogue on Cristóbal Balenciaga. Another piece has remained in memories as a prime example: “This 1967 cocktail dress exploits all the structural qualities of gazar. Four pots with shoulders create a geometric volume from which a woman emerges like a butterfly from its cocoon. […] The straps, barely visible, are also made of diamonds. As a coiffure, a bouquet of feathers brings a touch of fantasy to this geometric rigor.” From the time of her arrival at the head of Balenciaga’s creation, Demna Gvasalia has based his research on the year 1958, when Cristóbal Balenciaga developed a silk organza gazar that became his emblematic signature. Today, it can be found on men’s and women’s pieces in the 2017 collections, put into a new equation with spandex, which was also created in 1958. This is yet another fabric that today allows us to explore different visions of the body, clothing, and cuts.

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