A traveler in Germany might be tempted to skip Dusseldorf, which isn’t exactly on the style map, instead rushing to the louche underground and übercool neighborhoods of Berlin. And yet, Dusseldorf’s fashion importance should not to be underestimated. After all, that’s where Claudia Schiffer’s sterling career started.
But seriously, there’s another reason Dusseldorf matters right now. This summer, the city boasts one of the best fashion exhibits of the year, Azzedine Alaïa in the 21st Century, an ode to the cult designer that was first staged in Groninger, Netherlands, last year. Focusing on his oeuvre from 2003 to 2011, the 70 pieces displayed at NRW Forum effectively summarize his aesthetic, a timeless, universal message of unequivocal seduction, elegance, and simplicity — all of which he’s somehow able to express through a body-revealing, hourglass silhouette cut in luxurious and lush textures.
Alaïa is primarily a client-focused dressmaker, so curator Mark Wilson concentrated solely, and wisely, on the clothes. He’s displayed them by fabric, offset by vibrant colors. For example, leather pieces are exhibited in a bright green room, while velvet pieces are housed in another blue space.
There are no display cases, so visitors get to appreciate, without touching, the exquisite craftsmanship of the clothes. Pure in shape, user-friendly, and surprisingly logical (summer dresses are often ventilated with small holes), they are the result of expert cutting and ingenuous construction. An ensemble is entirely made of tiny bits of leather held together by hooks; bugle beads are finely inserted into knitwear; and the pièce de résistance is clearly a black zippered column dress that peels away from the body.
The only outside element is a black painting by Christoph von Weyhe, Azzedine Alaïa’s longtime partner.
Want still more Alaïa? Then don’t miss his retrospective at the Musée Galliera, opening September 28, 2013. That’s Paris, so you have absolutely no excuse for skipping.