It is crazy, it is beautiful, it is good for the soul – Azzedine Alaïa at the Villa Borghese

After exhibitions in the Guggenheim in New York, the Groninger Museum in Groningen and the Palais Galliera in Paris, visitors can now admire the wonderful creations of the couturier Azzedine Alaïa (June 7, 1940) in Rome, at the Galleria Borghese. Located in the park of Villa Borghese, Galleria Borghese normally exhibits works of great sculptors and painters such as Bernini, Raphael, Antonio Canova, Paul Rubens or Caravaggio. Why not take the best of both worlds and combine them with the couture of Tunisian born designer Azzedine Alaïa they must have thought at the Galleria.


Nervous about combining fashion with sculpture

Curator Mark Wilson (who curated two previous exhibits in the years 1997-1998 and 2011-2012 at the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands)and his team were actually quite nervous about the task of equating the body-conscious fashion of Azzedine Alaïa with the art of masters of sculpture like Bernini and Canova. There was, so to say, quite a lot of competition going on. But they should not have worried. According to the Mark Wilson it took him only three hours to decide which clothes should be placed where. Yet, the result is a masterful blend of the sculptured art of the Renaissance and the sculptured fashion of Azzedine Alaïa.

Always the perfectionist in the pursuit of beauty, Alaïa revised some of the pieces, adjusting and elongating their silhouettes to adapt them better to the space. He modifies his creations like a painter reworks his paintings until the work allows him to stop. In a way he works against the current trend in the fashion world, where speed has replaced creativity. Alaïa represents the another side of the current fashion world, where designers have been transformed into creative directors projecting a brand image instead of being promoters of creativity and innovation. In Alaïa’s work we encounter a lot of substance, not often seen in many other designers.


Azzedine Alaïa and the art of education yourself in fashion

Alaïa laments that designers nowadays don’t study the clothes like he did as a child when growing up studying the creations of Balenciaga and Dior. Later on he took many a dress or bustier apart to understand how it was made. For a while he studied sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Tunis, which formed his taste, and especially his curiosity. He later moved to Paris, where he worked for Dior and Guy Laroche. From Guy Laroche he learned everything he needed to know about the technique of making and sculpting clothes. It is therefore no coincidence that Alaïa became a master at wrapping fabric around the body of women as if there were no weight or gravity. He’s wants to test the possibilities of the fabric and how it can be manipulated to idealize the body. Curator Mark Wilson considers Alaïa the last great couturier working today.


No one understands femininity and sexy quite like Alaïa

No one understands feminine shapes and sexy quite like Azzedine Alaïa. He highlights the feminine curves and purity of the female form like a sculptor. Alaïa loves to make soft sculptures from cloth. Just look at his famous body-conscious dresses and all becomes clear. With 65 of Alaïa’s dresses on display next to Bernini’s sculptures and other works of art from Galleria Borghese’s permanent collection the sculptor in Alaïa comes forward. The more you see, the more your level of enthusiasm rises. Alaïa’s charm and ability certainly has won me over. In that sense I am not different from any other woman who wished Alaïa had designed something just for her. It is crazy, it is beautiful, it is good for the soul.

Couture-Sculpture – Azzedine Alaïa in the history of fashion
Galleria Borghese
Piazzale del Museo Borghese 5, 00197 Rome
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