The Balenciaga Dress
Cristobal Balenciaga was a Spanish Basque fashion designer and founder of the Balenciaga fashion house. With a reputation for uncompromising standards, he demonstrated his exceptional artistry with his ability to design, cut and sew the models manually - one of only a handful of couturiers in fashion history with this ability. A highly inventive creator, he contributed immensely to reinterpreting the conventional female silhouette by broadening the shoulders and removing the waist and producing iconic sculptural masterworks of 1950’s haute couture.
Cristobal Balenciaga, Collectionneur de Modes Exhibition
The exhibition was held in Paris in 2012 by the Museé Galleria at the Cité de la Mode et du Design and comprised more than seventy historical garments and costumes from Balenciaga’s personal collection of inspirational pieces, including forty haute couture dresses and coats. It was an exploration of both his passion for historical garments as well as a reflection of his impact, notably his interpretation of traditional Spanish folklore, his use of black and somber colors, the purity of religious and ceremonial clothing and references to the grandmasters of Spanish painting.
Cristobal Balenciaga is one of ERRE’s key design influencers. It is his influence that inspires much of ERRE’s signature structured draping. A picture of a dress from his 1964 haute couture collection in the Collectionneaur de Modes exhibition that Natasha took and that became the mainstay of a sixty-garment collection she designed while studying in Paris at the time, is affectionately known as an ERRE obsession. Each season we revisit the picture and experiment anew with some of her original ideas to create something uniquely ERRE.
Visually, the beauty and simplicity of the drape expresses an understated yet “intelligent” elegance, while technically the genius of the construction explores the new shapes and proportions that defined this golden era of couture. Its elegant simplicity deceptively hides how immensely challenging it is to construct a drape that twists around panels and the experimentation that is required to establish which panels would need to be extended to achieve this effortless fluidity.
The mystery would be solved if you could take the dress apart to see how the pattern works. However, in reassembling it, you would need an unwavering grasp of the interlocking stages of the construction process. This would require years of experience combined with a deep understanding of how individual flat shapes can be assembled to form a three-dimensional whole.
This dress epitomises the ERRE signature philosophy in many ways - a design from the 1950’s where the appeal lies in the simplicity, wearability and, mostly, the elegant power it exudes.
The cut, proportions and draping of this dress has become a thread throughout our work. It can be seen directly in the draping of one of our jersey dresses as well our drape knit top, while indirectly, it reappears in combination with other couture images, African hairstyles and headdresses, as an influence in all the collection’s coats.
The draping in the Balenciaga dress is deceptively simple, however with a designer’s keen eye, it shows his skill for draping on a mannequin and his ability to visualise and manipulate a flat piece of fabric into a three-dimensional object that can fit the body.
The Influence of 1950’s Couture on the ERRE signature
The proportions. The construction. The cut.
We passionately emulate the construction and pattern-drafting that the haute couture garments of the 1950’s emphasised, in our own design process. It is in the way a pocket on a couture jacket fits when perfectly tailored in wool. Or how a collar is shaped to appear a little too big in proportion to the rest of the garment.
Design and construction features like these are absent in the world of fast fashion. But for us it is this that represents the best of what fashion design is capable of and demonstrate what can only be achieved by human skill.
We love what we do at ERRE. We love the craft behind it and creating things by hand. Design is all about the technical challenges and experimenting with techniques both new and old.
Examples of our experimentation with similar ideas are: