Fashion In Motion - Inspired by Balenciaga

This month the V&A announced their much anticipated upcoming fashion exhibition, Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion. In celebration, this years "Fashion in Motion" event was titled "Inspired by Balenciaga".

Fashion in Motion is a series of live catwalk events presented at the V&A once a year. In it's history, this event has featured some of the greatest designers of our time, including Alexander McQueen, Issey Miyake, Jean Paul Gauliter and Vivienne Westwood. Fashion in Motion brings catwalk couture to a wider audience by modelling it against the beautiful backdrop of the Museum.

In a recent talk at House of Vans, put on in collaboration with the London College of Fashion MA Fashion Curation course, I heard Claire Wilcox, who was a pivotal figure in the launch and continuation of Fashion in Motion, talk about the event. While some would argue that fashion is a form of art, something that I would agree with, and that haute couture garments exemplify craftsmanship and design in the intricate detail, having contemporary fashion within a fashion and textiles collection of a museum is still a relatively new practice, and still faces some contention from curators and fashion historians alike.

Projects such as the Fashion Museum, Bath's "Dress of the Year" ongoing exhibition ensures that at least one contemporary haute couture look makes it into the archive each year, suggesting an, albeit small, acceptance of the importance of the contemporary in an archive.

Wilcox stated that through Fashion in Motion, curators could respect the museum ethics while still also experimenting and showcase contemporary designers. When a piece enters a museum collection and is archived, it cannot be worn on a human body again, and must be stored in a manner that adheres to the archival rules, such as in a certain temperatures. Therefore, showing current pieces from designer archives on live models, whilst in the setting of a museum can portray the interactive, performative experience of a catwalk show, combining both the educational and inspirational aspects of a fashion museum experience.

On Friday 24th March, I attended the Fashion in Motion: Inspired by Balenciaga event which I believe embodied both these educational and inspirational aims.  Held in the Raphael Gallery and unlike previous events, which copied the set up of a catwalk show reminiscent of Fashion Week, this took the form of a collection presentation, where models entered and stood on a raised platform, completely still for the whole time. Guests were able to move around the models to view all pieces and take in each piece for as long as they should wish.

The garments on display were a unique selection of outfits created by students of Central Saint Martins BA Fashion Design Womenswear and BA Fashion Print students. They were created in response to the Cristobal Balenciaga Museum in Getaria, Spain.

According to the press release given to guests of the event the students drew inspiration from the archives of the Cristobal Balenciaga Museum, exploring the "pioneering use of fabrics, revolutionary shapes and exquisite attention to detail." To echo Balenciaga's consistent reference to his Spanish heritage, students were encouraged to look into their own histories to find inspiration from their origins and backgrounds.

The collection of 15 looks were, although all to an impeccable standard, each completely individual.  While each could stand alone in it's own right, together they worked cohesively, with specific detail to the shapes and silhouettes of each garment.

Giving contemporary, and in this case up-and-coming, designers the opportunity to display their work within a renowned gallery, with arguably one of the most extensive Fashion and Textiles collections, is an amazing project, and it is something that many designers aspire to. Fashion in Motion is a very important part of the V&A fashion department, one that I hope will continue. While it is fascinating to record, research, celebrate and display the fashions of the past, ultimately fashion is cyclical. Silhouettes and 'trends' resurface and are developed throughout difference centuries and it is important to display this. Many of the contemporary 'trends' are inspired by the past, or even further, many things that are now considered 'classics' were once a trend in their period.

Events such as Fashion in Motion celebrates the present, while acknowledging the importance of the past, for the design of the future.

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