A spectacular visual insight into the exquisite simplicity and beauty of Alaia’s design practice
On the 28th September the Palais Galleria, the museum for fashion in Paris, reopened its doors after extensive renovations over the past four years. Simply entitled Alaia, the opening exhibit is a tribute to Paris-based fashion designer Azzedine Alaia and the first retrospective in Paris of the Grand Couturier’s 34 years career.
While Alaia humbly says: I make clothes, women make fashion; the director of the Musee Galleria, Olivier Saillard, asserts: His influence on today’s fashion is fundamental. The exhibit offers a spectacular visual insight into the exquisite simplicity and beauty of Alaia’s design practice which is echoed at every turn through the masterful curatorial approach of the Musee Galleria.
Azzedine Alaia, who studied sculpture in Tunis, encouraged by his friend Thierry Mugler presented his first collection in Paris, in 1979. Since his designs have become known for a style of femininity which is both soft and feminine, yet hard and independent. His inspiration and approach to design has changed little over the course of his career, focusing always on the female form beneath the cloth allowing him to produce garments of haunting simplicity and beauty. When I’m working on a garment, it has to flow over the body, in profile and in back view.
The exhibition is comprised of 70 haute couture garments, each displayed on a seemingly invisible mannequin, allowing them to float in space. The focus of the exhibition is so much on simplicity that standing in the entry way there is almost no visual pollution from explanatory text or labels (the latter discretely placed on the slightly raised platform below the clothing). Alia has said that his designs allow one to see the woman, rather than her clothes and it would appear that Saillard’s approach to the exhibition and the resulting scenography by Martin Szekely, follow a similar theory; one must see only the clothes, not their exhibition. This is no mean feat given the soaring heights of the grand salons which house the exhibit.
Throughout the displays in the museum the focus on simplicity goes hand in hand with the concept of the timeless. The clothes are arranged not in the traditional chronology imposed by seasons and collections but by types of garments and bandage dresses stand with bandage dresses, opera coats with opera coats, despite having being created for different seasons, often over several years. This follows Alaia’s dismissal of the fashion season and its traditionally biannual demand for new collections – Alaia is famous for his complete disregard for fashion weeks. Instead the pieces in the exhibition read as a whole, a continuous exploration of the female form and the embodiment of M. Alaia’s vision of beauty and perfection.
Alaia, the exhibit, is a perfect fusion of two harmonious visions. M. Alaia and M.Saillard have worked in such a way as to create an environment which mirrors the works within. Visitors are absorbed completely by the designer’s works and enter a rarefied world of taste and simplicity that somehow feels like a natural part of human existence. Given the extraordinary features of some of the pieces on display, the affirmation that M. Alaia designs to show the body not the clothes, may seem somewhat farfetched; however one does indeed leave the exhibition primarily focused on the body, the clothes adding a level of fantasy to what is otherwise a base for sculpture and form.
Untill January 26, 2014
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