SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film Presents Madame Grès: The Art of Draping
ATLANTA, GA - The Savannah College of Art and Design is proud to debut the exhibition The Art of Draping at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film in Atlanta, honoring the legendary French couturière Madame Grès. Organized in collaboration with the Fondation Azzedine Alaïa, Paris, and curator Olivier Saillard, The Art of Draping showcases exquisite garments spanning six decades from the personal archive of the late designer Azzedine Alaïa. It is the first retrospective of Madame Grès’ work in the U.S. in nearly a decade and a half.
In The Art of Draping, more than 70 gowns and ensembles by Madame Grès from Alaïa’s unique collections — amassed primarily in secret — are presented to the public for the first time. The garments on view date to the 1930s, when Madame Grès was creating under the name Alix, to the 1980s, when her timeless creations were still the peak of modernity. The significant presence of Madame Grès’ works in Alaïa’s archive attests to the passion he had for the designer, with whom he shared a gift for the sculpting of forms.
“Madame Grès reigned over fashion with clean lines, neoclassical drapes, and a timeless understanding of the feminine form," said SCAD President & Founder Paula Wallace. "Her dresses exude elegance and grace and transport the wearer (and those fortunate enough to view them) through time, from Ancient Greece to fashion’s future. This exclusive SCAD FASH exhibition showcases the grandeur and precision of one of the world’s most gifted designers and highlights once again why SCAD exists at the epicenter of fashion, couture, and timeless beauty.”
Née Germaine Émilie Krebs, Madame Grès (French, 1903–1993) was one of the most highly regarded and influential French couturières of the 20th century. A consummate artist focused on craft, Madame Grès had aspirations to become a sculptor. Ultimately finding solace and solitude in her atelier, where she achieved remarkable feats of design complexity with artistic precision, she did in fact become the greatest sculptor of all the fashion designers of her era. A contemporary of Madeleine Vionnet, Coco Chanel, and Elsa Schiaparelli, Madame Grès was revered for her expert use of draping and innovative construction in garments evoking the sensual style of Ancient Greece. Madame Grès’ minimalistic draping and pleating techniques, and her attention and respect for the female body, have had a lasting effect on haute couture. Her creations have inspired many of fashion’s most illustrious designers including Cristóbal Balenciaga, Ralph Rucci, Issey Miyake, and Isabel Toledo, among others, in addition to Alaïa.
“Azzedine Alaïa collected the garments of Madame Grès with passion, patience, and resolution during all his life. He always kept his treasures hidden. He wanted to preserve them for his foundation and the future generations to learn from her craft," said Carla Sozzani, President of Fondation Azzedine Alaïa. "Today for the fifirst time ever, these precious works are united in a unique exhibition — and will leave Azzedine’s home to travel to the SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film in Atlanta. We are extremely thankful to the generosity and the foresight of Paula Wallace, and grateful to her and SCAD FASH for making one of Azzedine’s dreams come true.”
The Art of Draping offers a detailed study of Madame Grès’ evening and day gowns, tailored ensembles, and cocktail dresses, cleverly staged as if within an intimate theater, revealing the extraordinary skill of her draping and timeless nature of her creations. The exhibition also features a selection of never- before-seen vintage prints on loan from Fondation Azzedine Alaïa and rare images of Madame Grès taken by the iconic photographer Horst P. Horst, an artist of her era whose career was intertwined with hers, presented courtesy of the Horst Estate. An exhibition of complementary historical significance, Horst P. Horst: Essence of the Times is presently on view in SCAD FASH’s adjoining gallery.
“For the first time, nearly 80 dresses by Madame Grès, collected in secret by Azzedine Alaïa, will be exhibited at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film in Atlanta," said Olivier Saillard, curator and director of Fondation Azzedine Alaïa. As the founder of the Fondation Azzedine Alaïa and a passionate historian in his leisure time, Alaïa would have been proud to share this knowledge and these works. We are very grateful to Paula Wallace for this third invitation to SCAD FASH, and we are honored this history of fashion will resonate with the university’s students, public, and future generations to come.”
The Art of Draping is the third exhibition at SCAD FASH presented in collaboration with Fondation Azzedine Alaïa, a treasured partner to the university’s museums and resource to students. In honor of the 20th anniversary of the university’s French location in summer 2022, SCAD FASH Lacoste mounted Azzedine Alaïa: L’Art de la Mode, an expertly curated exhibition that traced the arc of Alaïa’s legendary career. In 2020, SCAD FASH Atlanta presented Alaïa-Adrian: Masters of Cut, pairing sleek designs and impeccably tailored looks by Alaïa and Gilbert Adrian.
“SCAD FASH is honored to present The Art of Draping and provide the rare opportunity to view and admire the craft, dedication, and genius of one fashion history’s most legendary artisans," said Rafael Gomes, creative director of SCAD FASH. "We are proud of our collaboration and special relationship with Fondation Azzedine Alaïa. SCAD students and museum guests alike will marvel at this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition paying tribute to one of the most enduring icons of couture.”
The Art of Draping is on view Nov. 11, 2022 through June 30, 2023. For more information, please visit scadfash.org.
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About SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film
SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film celebrates fashion as a universal language, garments as important conduits of identity, and film as an immersive and memorable medium of popular culture. Situated within SCAD Atlanta, the museum presents dynamic exhibitions, captivating films, and enticing events that mine the rich and storied legacies of fashion history to inspire contemporary designers and future innovations. Supported by the university’s strong global presence and connections to renowned contemporary fashion designers, filmmakers, and creative professionals around the world, SCAD FASH is an integral part of the SCAD educational experience. Like the award-winning SCAD Museum of Art, SCAD FASH serves as a creative resource for students of all ages and a wellspring of inspiration for visitors. Through programming that engages the university’s broad array of academic disciplines, SCAD FASH offers diverse exhibitions, films, installations, performances, and events to enliven and inspire the greater community year-round. Each program is designed to engage and appeal to visitors with varied backgrounds and interests, from textiles and jewelry to photography and film. Past exhibitions have featured the work of designers Ruth E. Carter, Azzedine Alaïa, Pierre Cardin, Carolina Herrera, Mary Katrantzou, Guo Pei, and Oscar de la Renta. Photographic exhibitions have featured the work of Albert Watson, Jonathan Becker, Bill Cunningham, and Omar Victor Diop. Exhibitions are accompanied by curated film series that complement programming. Past films include Pierre Cardin: Le Futur, The First Monday in May, Funny Face, The Leopard, and Ovation for Oscar, among others. For more information, visit scadfash.org.