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  • Written by Alexandra Sullivan


Azzedine Alaïa is known for his dedication to the art of fashion and used it to empower women; dressing women directly on their bodies using pure intuition. However, something most people don’t know is that Alaïa was also an exceptional collector. Before his death in 2017, he acquired pieces from the world’s most prestigious couturiers including Cristóbal Balenciaga, Gabrielle Chanel, Madeleine Vionnet, Elsa Schiaparelli and Christian Dior.

The Palais Galliera is dedicating an exhibition to the late Tunisian collector on Sept. 27 through Jan. 21 to showcase the collection he amassed over a lifetime. Titled “Azzedine Alaïa, Couturier Collectionneur” the exhibition will feature 140 pieces that were kept in total secrecy by Alaïa during his lifetime — meaning this will be the first time the collection will be shown to the public.

The 140 pieces that will be displayed are just a drop in the bucket of over 20,000 pieces the collector had. His collection is a tapestry of fashion excellence and pinpoints how fashion has evolved historically. From Charles Frederick Worth, who is considered to be the father of haute couture, to some contemporaries and low-key houses, the exhibition will illustrate the evolution of fashion.

Alaïa saw fashion differently than the average designer would. He saw the value in the execution of designs — the seamstress and the craftsman. He cared about how the pieces were made more than the name on the tag. He attended auctions and snatched up pieces throughout his career that have since been stacked in cardboard boxes in his headquarters in Paris.

Alaïa was multifaceted, timeless and incredibly independent. His independence equated to privacy which gave him the opportunity to adapt to creativity and reject trend in the fashion system. He had his own system which allowed him to release on his own schedule and to not be tied down to only one thing. He did everything secretly and privately.

The couturier often found himself at the intersection of fashion and art. To complete their tour, visitors are invited to the Salle Matisse at MAM, opposite the Palais Galliera, to experience three stage costumes designed by Henri Matisse for the Ballets Russes in 1919 and bask in the fusion of art and fashion.

This exhibition comes 10 years after the museum honored Alaïa with its opening exhibition. The Palais Galliera had newly renovated galleries and used them to devote a major retrospective to Alaïa as a designer. He was known as the King of Cling, treating the body as a sculptor and accentuating it with every stitch. Now, they are using the space to showcase his life through his private collection.

The exhibition will allow Alaïa’s name and legacy to live on and to allow visitors to experience fashion through the lens of a legend. Alaïa may be renowned for his exceptional designs and his mastery of the cut, but his collection of pieces is unlike any other and lives beyond him.

© Patricia Schwoerer /rgmparis


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