June 10, 2011

On Inspiration

Via the Balenciaga Archives

"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." Cristobal Balenciaga

Recently, a dear friend asked me what inspires my style- if there is a specific time period that serves as an influence. My friend's reasoning was that she would start with generalities regarding my style and sensibilities before moving onto the nuances. I thought about it and began to speak several times, but struggled to articulate my inspirations. My sartorial inspirations are far more subtle than a particular time period. I also find that I'm always inspired by new things that help me hone my vision. 

My style is influenced by life and all of its subtleties. I started this blog as a place to share all of the little influences on my personal style. When the lovely Koko commented that the dress I wore to last week's benefit reminded her of old school Balenciaga I took a step back. There's no denying that the fit and little tulip skirt in the image above influenced my evening look. Vintage Balenciaga has been on my mind for months. I went to see Balenciaga: Spanish Master at the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute twice and had the opportunity to hear Hamish Bowles speak about curating the exhibition. All winter I have awaited today's opening of the Cristobal Balenciaga Museoa in Getaria, Spain.

I have seen exhibits on Balenciaga, but Balenciaga: Spanish Master is the first exhibition to examine the unique Spanish influences on the couturier's work. What I find most enduring about Balenciaga's work is the tailoring. The cut, lines and fall of the material are precise, even when he experimented with silhouettes. He understood the notion of designing for a multitude of body types and how to drape material. I'm reminded of the quote from Pamela Golbin's book Balenciaga Paris, "It seems as though he never had any other aspiration than creating clothes, anonymously and merely for the pleasure of it, for a few women, the smallest possible number; not necessarily beautiful women but those rare few in each generation who are elegant enough to combine audacity, attention to detail and propriety in one dress." I'm constantly looking out for a collectors piece by a true couturier like Balenciaga, Chanel or Madame Grès. 

We each have our own tastes and preferences that serve as inspiration, however I'm always amazed that my travels, favorite pieces of literature, art and decor (to name a few) inform my personal style. Each of these things yields a consistency of vision that contribute to my personal style. What inspires your style?

PS- The exhibit is now open at the de Young. If you are in San Francisco, I would highly recommend checking this out.


  1. I keep hoping the exhibit will make its way somewhere closer to my neck of the woods, I greatly admire the work of Christobal Balenciaga. Koko was right when she compared your dress to one of his silhouettes.

    Good question. I think I'm inspired by real women, adventure, and practicality. The last one doesn't mean it has to be drab and utilitarian - I like it when things are useful, enduring, and beautiful. Things like that put a spring in my step when I tramp around in them.

  2. Lin- I hope the exhibit comes to you! The New York exhibit was tightly edited and much smaller than the one in SF, which meant that every item selected had such a purpose. I'm really hoping that the exhibit travels, so more people can see it.

    I love the idea of being inspired by real women. I also like items that are practical. I agree that practical doesn't have to be drab! I think people confuse the two. Items that are enduring are so inspiring. There's nothing like investing in a piece that will withstand time.

  3. Oh I hope the exhibition travels too. I went to an exhibition at the V&A of post-war design, and while all the Dior dresses were stunning, the Balenciaga coats and dresses really stuck with me. They just don't look period at all - just beautifully cut. A true master.

  4. Ammu-Fingers crossed! Oh the V&A- so sad I won't get to see the Yohji. Balenciaga's coats and dresses are beautifully cut. The coats always win me over- beautifully cut with lots of movement. Such a master!

  5. I know :( As much as I love being in India, I miss London's museums. I used to live bang opposite the V&A. Maybe the Yohji will travel? You should do a petition ;) Am sure you are not the only New Yorker who wants to see it!

  6. Museums are one of my absolute favorite things about cities. I hope the Yohji travels- There are so many people who would love to see it.