Cristol Ball

The first Balenciaga retrospective in Paris opened on Tuesday, showcasing dramatic sculptural shapes and surprisingly vivid colors.

In one case, a dress is displayed next to its bodice turned inside out to show how Balenciaga rigged an internal harness of grosgrain that kept the crepe fabric in place. Anyone who has visited the Balenciaga boutique in Paris ­ with a decor reminiscent of a health club aboard a spacecraft ­ will find many common elements in the exhibition: iceberg-like forms, odd geometric portals and swimming pool tiles.

The further one ventures into the retrospective, the more the futuristic elements increase. But there are high-tech elements throughout, including flat-screen televisions showing sketches by Balenciaga on various hotel letterheads. Others broadcast rare footage of the couturier during a fitting, his concentration palpable, and worked through to a compilation of Ghesquière's rapid-fire fashion shows.

Ghesquière chose to exhibit mostly his recent work, which has been rich in archival references, culminating with what he called a "reference collection" for the coming fall-winter season. The designer said the house's heritage has helped him to become "more conscious of the very concrete elements of the brand. I think it's now incorporated into my spirit."

And the house continues to enlarge its archive, giving it more latitude with its Balenciaga Edition label of archival reissues. "The girls love it. It's like having new vintage clothes. It's a very interesting concept," said Ghesquière. "Edition has a really incredible potential. The concept is, ‘This is timeless,' so it's timeless forever."

The Balenciaga exhibition runs through Jan. 28 and will be followed by one devoted to Jean Paul Gaultier's collaborations with choreographer Régine Chopinot.
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