The iconic couturiers Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent and Cristóbal Balenciaga defined future fashion in very different ways with very different visions. But they all sourced their fabrics from Swizz company Abraham, whose predictably amazing archive is now the subject a major exhibition at Momu in Antwerp.
Going through more than 200 items selected from Abraham’s enormous textile archive evokes a real feeling of excitement. The fashion exhibition goes beyond chronological order, offering a totally immersive, three-dimensional world. Taking and extending the research of the now late Sigrid Pallmert for the Landesmuseum in Zurich, it showcases a complex, broad slice of the fashion industry between the 50s and the late 90s. Director of Abraham in the 1930s and throughout this period, Gustav Zumsteg collaborated extensively vis-à-vis with the most prominent couturiers of the time, like Christian Dior, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Pierre Balmain, Hubert de Givenchy, and Yves Saint Laurent. Specialising in silk textiles in a historical period when the fashion world was already fascinated by the use of synthetic fabrics (thanks to the performing structure and the advantageous costs), Abraham brought the luxury of Haute Couture design into the fabric.
From the flower prints that characterised some of the most famous designs by Christian Dior during the 50s to the lamé and animal print fabrics from Yves Saint Laurent and the beautiful silk gazar used by Cristóbal Balenciaga and his pupil Givenchy, with a glimpse of the Kronenhalle restaurant’s guestbook, the exhibition is a well-rounded tapestry of the times. Owned by the Zumsteg family, the Kronenhalle was the creative hub, a sort of art laboratory where artists, designers and thinkers would stop by. Offering a rare insight into the beauty and art of haute couture in its original form, ‘Couture in Colour’ is heaven to any old school fashion mind.
Silks & Prints from the Abraham Archive, Couture in Colour runs until 11th August at Momu, Antwerp.
Text: Manuela Martorelli
Images from left: Drawing Cristobal Balenciaga, autumn-winter 1967. (c) Balenciaga Archives Paris
Campaign image Silk & Prints from the Abraham archive – Couture in Colour Cristobal Balenciaga, winter 1955/56. Photo: Tom Kublin. Graphics: Paul Boudens
Christian Dior, summer 1960, Photographer: Tom Kublin Kwana, summer 1960. Silk, twill drouppion imprimé. Abraham Archive
Christian Dior, summer 1955, Photograper: Forlano Taftalia, summer 1955. Silk, toile imprimée. Abraham Archive
Installation with 20 Abraham Scrapbooks, 2010. Abraham Archive
Covers company brochure, summer 1949, 1952, 1953 and 1954. Abraham Archive