Fashion

Unraveling the Mastery of Madame Grès: The Art of Draping Exhibition in Atlanta

Errika Gerakiti 9 March 2023 min Read

Madame Grès, The Art of Draping is a fashion exhibition held by SCAD FASH (Savannah College of Art and Design) Museum of Fashion + Film in Atlanta, USA. The exhibition is on show until June 30, 2023 and it showcases the draping artistry of Madame Grès, one of the most talented female fashion designers of the 20th century. This exhibition is a collaboration between the Savannah College of Art and Design and the Fondation Azzedine Alaïa. Olivier Saillard, director and curator of Fondation Azzedine Alaïa, and Raphael Gomes, curator and creative director of SCAD FASH Museum, joined their creative forces to organize this majestic exhibition, where fashion and art are showcased in all their glory.

Madame Grès, or Else Germaine Émilie Krebs

Born in 1903, Germaine Émilie Krebs wanted to be a sculptress. However, her parents did not allow her to pursue this career, so she quickly switched to fashion where she could apply her sculpting skills. In 1932, she opened her haute couture house, La Maison Alix, along with her business partner, Juliette Barton. During the decade when the fashion house was operating, Madame Grès found her signature style: she developed the drapery technique, which became her trademark.

It was this drapery artistry and the fact that she sewed the gowns directly onto the models that made her famous. A contemporary of Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Madeleine Vionnet, Madame Grès became a haute couturier of equal fame and glory.

Even though she was forced to close her fashion house during World War II, she did not stop creating beautiful garments. As soon as the war was over, she reopened her fashion house under her signature name. Madame Grès retired in the late 1980s, and soon after that the fashion house closed once and for all.

the art of draping: Never-before-seen portraits of Madame Grès by photographer Horst P. Horst are on display at the Madame Grès, The Art of Draping exhibition at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, Atlanta, GA, USA. Courtesy of SCAD FASH.
 
 

Never-before-seen portraits of Madame Grès by photographer Horst P. Horst are on display at the Madame Grès, The Art of Draping exhibition at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, Atlanta, GA, USA. Courtesy of SCAD FASH.

 

 

Madame Grès, The Art of Draping

The Art of Draping displays a carefully curated study of the designer’s day and evening gowns, as well as various ensembles and cocktail dresses, exhibited as if they were on a theatre stage. The exhibition also shows never-before-seen portraits of Madame Grès by the photographer Horst P. Horst, as well as vintage prints by Fondation Azzedine Alaïa.

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What Do We Learn from the Exhibition?

The visitor does not only see beautiful pieces of clothing in the exhibition— they also learn interesting details about the woman behind them. Madame Grès was a very private person, often secluded in her atelier. She lived for nearly the entire 20th century and all of its turmoil, and was designing for at least 50 of those years. Even though trends and fashion changed throughout these years, she adapted in such a way that maintained her personal style through it all. SCAD FASH Museum offers a detailed timeline in the gallery, with all of the artist’s accomplishments from the beginning of her design journey to her very end.

the art of draping: Madame Grès, evening gown. Currently on display at Madame Grès, The Art of Draping exhibition at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, Atlanta, GA, USA. Courtesy of SCAD FASH.

Madame Grès, evening gown. Currently on display at Madame Grès, The Art of Draping exhibition at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, Atlanta, GA, USA. Courtesy of SCAD FASH.

As Raphael Gomes states, the exhibition is not just for the experienced fashion visitor; someone who is not familiar with the artist, but admires fashion and art, can also learn much. For starters, the designer’s manipulation of large pieces of fabric into fine garments is exquisite; the visitor sees majestic and voluminous items of clothing right next to the phenomenal draping of gowns. Pattern-making is included as an element of the display.  Last but not least, everyone learns about a fashion designer who is often overlooked but whose impact on fashion is indisputable.

the art of draping: View of the exhibition Madame Grès, The Art of Draping at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, Atlanta, GA, USA. Courtesy of SCAD FASH.

View of the exhibition Madame Grès, The Art of Draping at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, Atlanta, GA, USA. Courtesy of SCAD FASH.

SCAD FASH Museum x Fondation Azzedine Alaïa

The cooperation and cultural collaboration between the two institutes are deep and respectful; this is not the first time that SCAD FASH Museum has held an exhibition with Fondation Azzedine Alaïa. In 2020, they curated an exhibition in Atlanta: Alaïa-Adrian: Masters of Cut. The exhibition paired the creative designs of Azzedine Alaïa and Gilbert Adrian. In 2022, they held the exhibition Azzedine Alaïa: L’Art de la Mode at SCAD FASH Lacoste. It displayed a careful and detailed curation of Azzedine Alaïa’s own designs and garments.

The Art of Draping is an impressive result of the continuous creative cooperation of SCAD FASH Museum and Fondation Azzedine Alaïa. This exhibition does not only celebrate their cultural and educational relationship but also shares Alaïa’s personal interest in Madame Grès’ designs.

the art of draping: View of the exhibition Madame Grès, The Art of Draping, at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film in Atlanta, GA, USA. Courtesy of SCAD FASH.

View of the exhibition Madame Grès, The Art of Draping, at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film in Atlanta, GA, USA. Courtesy of SCAD FASH.

Azzedine Alaïa has 800 garments by Madame Grès in his private collection. As Olivier Saillard expresses, Alaïa was intrigued by the timeless elements of her designs. Sometimes, it is impossible to date the designer’s creations due to their perpetual beauty, technique, and precision. In the exhibition, only 70 have been selected, but they do give a complete image of The Art of Draping of Madame Grès.

SCAD FASH Museum, in order to honor its frequent collaboration with the Fondation, created a homage to Azzedine Alaïa in the museum’s film salon. It includes a new vignette of Alaïa’s creative mastery and a short film produced by SCAD narrated by Naomi Campbell. It is a beautiful way to celebrate the two designers and complement the exhibition.

 

 

the art of draping: View of the exhibition Madame Grès, The Art of Draping, at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, in Atlanta, GA, USA. Courtesy of SCAD FASH.

View of the exhibition Madame Grès, The Art of Draping, at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, in Atlanta, GA, USA. Courtesy of SCAD FASH.

Madame Grès, The Art of Draping at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, in Atlanta, GA, USA, is open until 30 June 2023.

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