Balenciaga and Comme Des Garcons

Balenciaga gown © Mongo

While the Palais Galliera which houses the Musee de la Mode et du Textile, is involved with the renovation of its building, it continues with its “Outside Walls” program, a schedule of fashion exhibitions held in a variety of spaces and around Paris. This spring, director Olivier Saillard has taken part of its archives and set up two shows at Les Docks, Cite de la Mode et du Design. On view until October 7, 2012 are two elegant and wildly contrasting fashion fexhibitions: “Balenciaga, Fashion Collector” and “Comme des Garcons: White Drama.”

Marking the 40th year of his passing, the fashion museum is paying homage to one of the masters of Haute Couture with another “Outside the Wall” show, “Cristobal Balenciaga: Fashion Collector.” Within an intimate space set up warehouse style (complete with galvanized steel scaffolding and sliding drawers), visitors are provided a close up view of 40 key pieces from Balenciaga’s career dating from 1937 to 1968 which include beaded lace shawls and matching tulle hats, embroidered and sequined silk taffeta ball gowns to sculptural day coats and a simple black cocktail dress

There is a small sample of the couturier’s own personal effects including his own croquis sketches, lithographs and other collectibles (traditional garments and folkloric costumes from Spain) which clearly, served as inspiration for his work throughout the years. The Balenciaga collection on display here (donated to the museum by his family), is not nearly as grand as others featured in the great Balenciaga exhibitions of 2006 (Mona Bismarck Foundation and the Musee des Arts Decoratifs), the items on display at Les Docks affords the visitor a rare close up view of the artisanal handwork and intricate beadwork which contributes to the specialness of French Couture. There are no glass partitions, no dim lights and surprising, visitors are allowed to take pictures of these one of kind treasures. Savor the moment at the Balenciaga exhibit then let your imagination soar in new directions with the show next door.

“Comme des Garcons: White Drama “ More attuned to Fine Arts than Haute Couture, the public has the rare opportunity to see a (current) fashion presentation by one of Japan’s legendary designers, Rei Kawakuba. Entirely white, the silhouettes which make up these garments are, in effect the designer’s inspiration and interpretation of special life events: birth, marriage and death, each defined in a symphony of white materials and volumes and placed in its own bubble. The visitor is immediately confronted with ankle length ivory dresses where all of gathers and volume is pushed forward to conceal front of the human. A series of dresses are richly covered with generous piles of artificial flowers much in the way a newlywed’s car is decorated. And in a final “palette,” an open-work “boned” cape reveals a shriveled dress underneath. It is pure provocation, poetically expressed by a woman who has dared to challenge traditional modes of dress for more than 30 years.

Look for more activities over the next several months in this location. Situated on the shores of the Seine near the Gare d’Austerlitz,  Les Docks Cite de la Mode et  Design was conceived by architects Jokob & MacFarlane in an effort to create a new contemporary village for the fashion and design industries. Currently the structure houses the higher learning institution, Institut Francais de la Mode (IFM). Next door are two galleries: Magasin M1 and M3 which showcase young French and international talent in the form of thematic exhibitions designed by Chantal Hamaide as well as the current spaces hosting fashion expos. Next to them there are shops and spaces dedicated to young talent such as the “Residence Atelier of Yiqing Yin, the concept store Pigalle and the Docks Pop-up store which is welcoming Bleu de Paname. Opening in May is Café Praline, a tearoom, and in June through September the “Wanderlust” (nightclub) as well as the “Moon Roof” restaurant.

Balenciaga: Fashion Collector. Commes des Garcons: White Drama. Les Docks, Cite de la Mode et du Design, 34, quai d’Austerlitz. 75013.    Open Tues-Sun. 11am – 6pm. Admission : 7,50 Euro (6 Euros for Seniors, 4,50 for 14-26 year olds. free for under children under 14) includes admission for both shows. Until Oct 7, 2012