Posted: 31 May, 2017


Focus Consultants have been working in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum to create a new exhibition entitled ‘Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion’. It will showcase the work of the revolutionary couturier and fashion icon Cristóbal Balenciaga (1895-1972).  The exhibition will feature the UK’s largest collection of his work, including items made for actress Ava Gardner and socialite Mona von Bismarck. The second part of the exhibition will reveal how the designer influenced his contemporaries and the fashion industry of today.

Focus acted as project manager and quantity surveyor as part of a framework agreement appointment with the V&A Museum. Our role included programme management, contract administration, cost management and procuring and managing the project’s consultants and contractors, e.g. AV software design, Lighting, AV hardware and the build contractor.

This is the fourth commission that Focus has undertaken for the V&A for a fashion related exhibition, the first being ‘Wedding Dresses: 1775 – 2014’, followed by ‘Shoes: Pleasure and Pain’ and ‘Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear’ and our seventh appointment by the V&A.

Balenciaga, as one of the few couturiers able to design, cut and sew, was referred to as “the master of us all” by his contemporary Christian Dior, through his unyielding standards and profound influence on creating the feminine look of the 50s and 60s.

The V&A is working with artist Nick Veasey who has created life-size x-rays of some of Balenciaga’s signature garments, and with students from the London College of Fashion, UAL, to reveal the hidden details and intricacy of how his items were produced.

Cristóbal Balenciaga was born in Spain in 1895 and became apprenticed to a tailor at age 12. In 1917, he opened his first fashion house in San Sebastian and his Parisian flagship store opened in 1937. Balenciaga’s creations were unique; his silhouettes were linear through broad shoulders and removed waists, leading many to note they resembled a work of architecture as opposed to clothing. Balenciaga famously stated:

“a couturier must be an architect for design, a sculptor for shape, a painter for colour, a musician for harmony, and a philosopher for temperance”.

The V&A exhibition will mark the centenary of the opening of his San Sebastian fashion house and the 80th anniversary of his famous Paris fashion house.  ‘Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion’, sponsored by American Express, will open at the Victoria and Albert Museum in Kensington on 27th May 2017, where it will remain until the 18th of February 2018.