London Calling: Anna and Cristóbal
Luckily for me, my London dates overlapped with two major fashion exhibitions happening in the city. The Fashion and Textile Museum presented The World of Anna Sui, and the V&A held the much-hyped, Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion. The fashion lover in me was thrilled to be around to catch a few of the seemingly endless supply of fashion exhibitions that happen across the pond.
The World of Anna Sui
I might get called a blasphemer, but The World of Anna Sui is the better of the two exhibitions. I realized that I love retrospectives and the Fashion and Textile Museum did an incredible job of showing Anna's influences and significant style themes. In one room, a recording of Anna talking about her career broadcasted over the speakers while visitors examined a few outfits, lots of her early sketches and photos of things that influenced her. If you stuck around long enough, you learned the backstory behind Madonna wearing her clothing for the first time and stories of her famous friends like Steven Meisel and Marc Jacobs
The second room bombarded you with the colours and textures that you've come to expect from Anna Sui. Over 100 mannequins represented Anna's style archetypes: Nomad, Mod, Fairytail, Rockstar & Hippy, Victorian, Schoolgirl, Punk, Grunge, Americana, Androgyny, and Retro. There's no glass separating visitors from the mannequins, so you could get close and examine all the tiny details. Each grouping of archetypical mannequins had a book which listed the season and fabrics for each look. The exhibition wasn't busy, so it was a lovely, contemplative experience. The second room balcony showed off Anna's superbly packaged makeup line and more of her process with mood boards and fabric swatches.
I only saw Anna Sui as boho fashion designer, but this exhibit showed me that her style is more than that. Unfortunately, The World of Anna Sui closed on Oct 1, 2017, but the current exhibition is a retrospective of fashion photographer, Louise Dahl-Wolfe's 22-year career and is on until January 21, 2018.
Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion
I went into the V&A's Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion blind. I didn't read anything about the exhibit, so my expectations didn't match with reality. I was hoping for more pieces from Cristóbal, the master of couture, but the exhibition focused on his legacy, which included the works of his protégées and modern fashion designers.
The first floor of the exhibit focused on Cristóbal. Sketches and muslins showcased the brilliance of his skills. Photographs of garment x-rays gave us a peek into the elaborate and sometimes simple construction details hidden beneath yards of fabric. The small collection of his hats were such a little delight of whimsy. The exhibit gave me my only chance to wear an original Balenciaga as visitors could try on a Balenciaga skirt that also doubled as a jacket. Another interactive station provided visitors with an insight into Cristóbal's dazzling mind by constructing one of his garments using paper and a few simple cuts.
The second floor is bigger and dedicated to the legacy of Balenciaga. Here you see the significant influence Cristóbal has had on the entire fashion industry. Commes des Garçons, Gareth Pugh, Nicolas Ghesquière, Rei Kawakubo, Erdem, YSL, Iris Van Herpen and Delpozo are just some of the designers the V&A used to showcase the themes of Balenciaga in modern design.
Almost everything in the Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion exhibit was behind glass, so it wasn't possible to get close and examine all the small details. It was also really, really busy. Although I was looking for a retrospective, the exhibit gave me the opportunity to see a number of his garments in person and a new appreciation of Cristóbal's genius. Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion is on until February 18, 2018.