Fashion has always been an industry focused on change and innovation. When following the current trends in creativity, it is important to recognise inherited ideas with major design houses. Even the most modern companies and creative directors work within the storied backgrounds of founding designers. Enduring trends and styles explain financial and creative success, and drive their standing in contemporary culture.

Cristobal Balenciaga during a fitting, Photographed by Henri-Cartier Bresson, 1968.

Cristobal Balenciaga during a fitting, Photographed by Henri-Cartier Bresson, 1968.

Hubert De Givenchy in his studio, Photographed by Robert Doisneau, 1960.

Hubert De Givenchy in his studio, Photographed by Robert Doisneau, 1960.

The Houses of Balenciaga and Givenchy, both modern game changers in today’s fashion world, were especially important, together and apart, when they were first growing under their founders.

After his first presence on the Parisian couture scene in the late 1930s, Cristobal Balenciaga was seen as a revolutionary figure, and his reputation for perfectionism in tailoring techniques was expanded throughout the 1950s. He was known for his linear, clean designs that kept away from the curved, body conscious shapes of Dior’s “New Look”. Balenciaga also championed width, in the balloon jacket, cocoon coat, and the sack dress, contrasted by evening pieces featuring sculpted swan collars and cropped cuffs.

Cristobal Balenciaga's evening dress, Photographed by Henry Clarke, 1951.

Cristobal Balenciaga's evening dress, Photographed by Henry Clarke, 1951.

Like Balenciaga, Hubert de Givenchy was in high demand, especially known for redefining the concept of youth through elegance and refinement. Givenchy was very close with Balenciaga during the late 1950s, as both were passionate about creating very linear looks based on central, singular lines. He was also known for his tailoring, as well as particularly feminine cocktail and evening dresses with luxurious fabrics used in full, long skirts. Both designers also worked to innovate their fabrics, focusing on adapting the quality and colour ranges of their materials.

Hubert de Givenchy's ensemble, Photographed by Bert Stern, 1969.

Hubert de Givenchy's ensemble, Photographed by Bert Stern, 1969.

Through their work, Balenciaga and Givenchy defined how financial success, elegance and beauty were represented throughout the 1950s, a classic era for high class transcribed in the language of simplicity and femininity. The current creative directors of these houses, Demna Gvaslia and Riccardo Tisci, continue to work with the concepts established by Balenciaga and Givenchy, ensuring an exquisite leap into the contemporary age of fashion, without diminishing the reputation of the houses.

Demna Gvaslia, appointed to Balenciaga in late 2015, released his first collection for the house during the Parisian Ready-to-Wear Fall/Winter 2016 season. His roots lie in the deconstructed streetwear of his label, Vetements, and he certainly brought these ideas to Balenciaga through a series of oversized jackets of particularly dense materials, (ski wear and denim) cut so that they look intentionally worn off the shoulder. But with this innovation came a nod to the past. Much of the collection was filled with Balenciaga’s techniques, tailored coats and separates, with sharply pointed shoulders flowing into exaggerated curved hiplines starting from the natural waist. Sack-like turtleneck tunics with deconstructed hemlines and matching one-line shift skirts followed. Also presented were coats that played with the waistline independently from the models’ own lines, as Balenciaga once did with dresses.

Cristobal Balenciaga's dress, Photographed by George Hoyningen-Huene, 1939.

Cristobal Balenciaga's dress, Photographed by George Hoyningen-Huene, 1939.

A look from Demna Gvaslia's debut collection for Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2016. Photo source: Vogue Runway.

A look from Demna Gvaslia's debut collection for Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2016. Photo source: Vogue Runway.

Riccardo Tisci came to the House of Givenchy as Creative Director in 2005, and since then has become known for his dark, Gothic designs that retain sumptuousness in fabric, cut and embroidery. Most recently, his Spring/Summer 2016 Ready-to-Wear and Haute Couture collections show many, though subtle, Givenchy influences. The Ready-to-Wear was anything but simple, with gowns and masks dripping in beads, feathers, lace and heavily defined almost skeletal lines. But in the deconstructed, yet sharp tailoring of silken separates, and the full skirted, black evening wear, Givenchy’s penchant for clean tailoring, luxurious materials, and femininity could still be seen. For Haute Couture, these ideas were articulated again, with elegance and refinement being interpreted through cape lines that followed the lines of the shoulders and enveloped the body without too much material or embroidery.

A look worn by Joan Smalls from Givenchy Spring/Summer 2016 Ready-to-Wear collection. Photo source: Vogue Runway.

A look worn by Joan Smalls from Givenchy Spring/Summer 2016 Ready-to-Wear collection. Photo source: Vogue Runway.

A look from Givenchy Spring/Summer 2016 Haute-Couture collection. Photo source: Vogue Runway.

A look from Givenchy Spring/Summer 2016 Haute-Couture collection. Photo source: Vogue Runway.

The Houses of Balenciaga and Givenchy both shape the economics of the fashion industry and demand for luxury goods, so it is important to note that current creative directors work within the environment passed on through generations of designers. Gvaslia and Tisci innately follow the lines that Balenciaga and Givenchy used to set their houses apart in the fashion world. This clarity in the continuation of the founders’ influence stands as a necessary reminder that contemporary fashion is a part of a long line of art and inspiration, connected through a search for fulfilment and genuine beauty.

Words: Annunziata Santelli

Copy edited by: Elena Stanciu