The modern way of shopping for something of quality often involves a little bit, but not too much - you can always ask TheChicGeek, of legwork to find the source. What I mean by this is, the majority of brands don’t make their own products. They use the ‘Private Label’ system of getting quality manufacturers to produce their goods. Often these manufacturers have their own in-house labels, producing products of the same quality without the designer mark up. While not cheap, you’re getting much better value for money.
One brand which fits this bill is the Spanish BIEL-LO. Carrying on a 25-year old tradition of expert craftsmanship, BIEL-LO produces fine quality knitted garments and accessories in the mountains of La Llacuna, Barcelona.
BIEL-LO constructs timeless pieces using small-scale production to provide you with their personal hallmark: each and every item has been made to delight and be cherished. The hand-finished garments are designed to ensure functionality and warmth, year after year.
Left & Right - BIEL-LO AW17
Currently stocked at Dover Street Market Tokyo and NYC, Tomorrowland, American Rag Cie, Merci, My Boon, the new AW17 collection is a collection of the must have earth colours and textured finishes like corduroy.
To be honest, these pictures don't do the clothes justice and it would be nice to see them in a UK stockist where you can see the quality for yourself. It’s also got that slightly eccentric edge and point of difference that you find around the Barcelona area.
Below - The BIEL-LO factory
The first ever UK exhibition on the Spanish fashion designer, Cristóbal Balenciaga, and his continuing influence on modern fashion opens at the V&A. The exhibition marks the centenary of the opening of Balenciaga’s first fashion house in San Sebastian, Spain and the 80th anniversary of the opening of his famous fashion house in Paris.
Left - The man himself, Cristóbal Balenciaga
TheChicGeek says, “While I love the V&A’s Fashion Gallery, the big exhibition space, where Pink Floyd currently is, is usually larger and something to get more excited about. But, this exhibition feels less cramped than previous exhibitions in the space - see Underwear here - and upstairs has a nice, spacious flow.
Balenciaga, as a designer, was serious. Those black voluminous gowns seem to sum up his lack of fun. He feels strict in that Spanish Catholic way, manifesting itself in his designs using lace and the Spanish Mantilla. You don’t get much feel for the man or his personality, but I think that’s how he liked it. He only gave one interview in his life, and that was just before he died.
Left - Known for his elegant volumes, Balenciaga was one of the great couturiers of the 20th century
The name disappeared into the history books when he closed his house and only came back into common culture with its revival around 20 year's ago when Gucci’s parent company, Kering, bought it alongside Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen.
Downstairs is a collection of pieces, mostly coats and dresses, from his most prolific period the 1960s. These are sculptural clothes for pictures and striking as they are, when they become practical, to enter the real world, particularly the commissions by the rich Americans, they look dated and frumpy. His volumes work on their own, but on people they add bulk and often swallow the wearer. These aren't easy wearing pieces.
Some of his pieces aren’t practical either. The wearer couldn’t sit down or go to the toilet in 'Envelope' dress, for example, but this doesn't detract from its beauty.
This was the golden age of 20th century of couture and while he produced ready-to-wear with his 'Eisa' range, his heart was in his exacting standards and the fine fabrics he used.
Left - The 'Envelope' dress, 1967, a design you couldn't sit down or go to the toilet in
Balenciaga is more a collection of one-off greatest hits than themed seasons in the vain of Saint Laurent. These weren’t particularly well documented, even though they were huge, between 150 to 200 looks, as the press weren’t allowed into his shows, so the main imagery is striking black and white shoots in the magazines at the time which have entered in the common psyche of 20th century fashion images.
Upstairs is a large display with a varied selection of designers, both old and new, paying homage to the volumes that Balenciaga pioneered. There are a couple of men’s pieces by JW Anderson and Rory Parnell-Mooney to illustrate that his influence isn’t restricted solely to womenswear.
Left - JW Anderson paying homage to Balenciaga with his tulip trousers
There are a couple of pieces from the new Balenciaga, under Demna Gvasalia, who is producing great things and referencing the house while making it feel contemporary. Unfortunately, there isn't a blue Ikea bag in sight!
Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion until 18th February 2018. Admission £12