© Center for Creative Photography, Tucson / Photography: Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Untitled (Cristóbal Balenciaga), 1946

The hype that surrounds Balenciaga today is mirrored in an illustrious past that has shaped the fashion industry’s upper echelon to a great extent. The Kunstmuseum in The Hague currently hosts Balenciaga in Black, an exhibition which specifically focuses on legendary fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga‘s creations in black. Interestingly, for the designer black was the ideal colour to display his artistry. Balenciaga’s use of black can also be traced back to his love of his Spanish heritage. From Catholic piety and traditional Spanish costume to the restrained black embroidery favoured by Spain’s ruling Habsburg dynasty and its court, black has had a long history in the country and a deep connection with Spanish identity.

Without the distraction of colour, the first thing one notices about a Balenciaga piece in black, whether it’s a tailored suit, evening gown or a voluminous baby doll dress, is its complex sculptural design. A second glance reveals the rich, often contrasting textures and exquisite details. The play of light on Balenciaga’s black beautifully highlights the fabric. Gazal, black lace, embroidery, velvet, draped silk or shimmering sequins—each couture piece is magnificently executed. Balenciaga even made his prototypes in black, in stark contrast with the unbleached cotton which most couturiers used at the time. The exhibition presents over 100 masterpieces from the collections of both Palais Galliera and Maison Balenciaga, highlighting the iconic couturier’s intricate exploration of black (on through Mar 5).

Stadhouderslaan 41 (Statenkwartier)
2517HV The Hague
Telephone: +31 70 3381111
Tue-Sun 10am-5pm

© Condé Nast – Irving Penn, Balenciaga evening dress, Vogue 1967 / Mike Bink – Exhibition setting / Kunstmuseum – Constance Wibaut, Drawing of a côtelé evening cape, Spring 1955, no. 130