Azzedine Alaia

“Azzedine Alaïa Couture/Sculpture.” Photo by the author.

Azzedine Alaïa has always been more of a sculptor than a fashion designer, holding his shows only when inspiration strikes and following the curves of the body instead of trends. In “Azzedine Alaïa Couture/Sculpture,” an exhibition that opened at Rome’s Galleria Borghese on July 9th, his sinuous work seems right at home slipped between the gallery’s collection of works by Bernini, Canova, Raphael, Rubens, Caravaggio, Titian and Veronese.

The 65 pieces, which span the Tunisian’s entire 34 year career in Paris, are culled from his archive and include many he remade specifically for the show. Two of his gladiator skirted knit dresses stand behind Bernini’s David like back-up singers ; the room in which Bernini’s Apollo reaches out to Daphne as she turns into a tree is filled with his pieces made in sharkskin, horse hair and shells ; and a triangle of his mummy-like bandage dresses are on display in the Egyptian room. In another room, two models in white mousseline dresses look like friends hanging out. “Alaïa is the visitor,” says curator Mark Wilson who has worked with the designer on four previous shows, including Alaïa’s first retrospective at Holland’s Groninger Museum in 1998 and its follow up there in 2012. “He’s responding to the works of art as a guest of the Galleria.”