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  • Installation view of “Couture-sculpture: Azzedine Alaïa in the history of fashion” exhibition at Galleria Borghese, Rome.

  • Installation view of “Couture-sculpture: Azzedine Alaïa in the history of fashion” exhibition at Galleria Borghese, Rome.

  • Alaïa dress, spring/summer 1994. Azzedine Alaïa archives © Paolo Roversi, 2013

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“Couture-sculpture: Azzedine Alaïa in the history of fashion” exhibition at Galleria Borghese

Galleria Borghese, Rome, dedicates a major exhibition to one of the most legendary couturiers of all time: Tunisian-born Azzedine Alaïa. The exhibition in titled “Couture-sculpture: Azzedine Alaïa in the history of fashion”, casting a light on the designer’s works that are closer to sculpture that to fashion design. Alaïa studied sculpture when he was a teenager at the Academy of Fine Arts in Tunis, an experience that, according to the designer, had a major influence on him and helped him shape his taste, and especially his curiosity. His sculptural approach on fashion is evident in his superb draping techniques that accentuate women’s curves, with his exquisitely crafted creations fitting the body as easily as if they were a second skin.

Alaïa shapes the woman’s body as if he were a sculptor, using scissors instead of a hammer and a chisel, and leather or muslin instead of marble. In a time when fashion designers are becoming fashion editors, supervising instead of creating, Alaïa is one of the few remaining designers that participates actively in all steps of the design process, from the drawing to the cutting and sewing, paying meticulous attention to detail. “When I’m working on a garment, it has to flow over the body, in profile and in back view,” he famously said once about his work. His perfectionism is so extreme that he has just two employees in his Parisian atelier, proving the he really deserves the title of couturier. Staying away from the frenetic pace of every season’s collections, Alaïa’s creations are timeless.

“Couture-sculpture: Azzedine Alaïa in the history of fashion” puts Alaïa’s creations directly into an art context, juxtaposing them with famous sculptures of Bernini and Canova that form part of Galleria Borghese’s permanent collection. For the occasion, Alaïa and the exhibition’s curator Mark Wilson prepared a special scenography that matches the designer’s creations with the magnitude of the life-sized sculptures on display, opening an interesting dialogue between art and fashion. “Each artist present in the gallery, from the ancients to Canova, considered the body worthy of celebration, molding clay or carving marble to reveal the male and female silhouettes. All shaped nudity, sculptured folds, seduced the viewer, being able to “craquer les hommes”; this is what all of Alaïa’s work aspires to, silhouettes worn by ideal women that can “crack” the heart of men,” Galleria Borghese said in a statement.

Alaïa’s remarkable ability to make women feel glamorous and sexy has gained him numerous unconditional fans all over the years, among them industry icons like Naomi Campbell, Stephanie Seymour, Linda Evangelista and Yasmin Le Bon. During his amazing career, the designer has dressed divas like Greta Garbo, Arletty, Louise de Vilmorin, Cécile de Rothschild, Tina Turner and Grace Jones. Considered by many as a living legend, Alaïa, who has worked in the past for Dior, Guy Laroche and his close friend Thierry Mugler, continues to make women dream, opening them a door to another dimension. His retrospective at Galleria Borghese highlights his contribution to the fashion industry, giving visitors the chance to discover firsthand his excellent craftsmanship and jaw-dropping designs, as well as his close relationship with art. “Couture-sculpture: Azzedine Alaïa in the history of fashion” runs from July 11 to October 25, 2015, at Galleria Borghese, Piazzale del Museo Borghese 5, 00197, Rome.