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Exhibition from the fashion historian’s Alexandre Vassiliev collection "Tamed Nature"

July 12, 2016

From 14 July to 16 October 2016, the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Riga (10/20 Skārņu Street) will host the exhibition Tamed Nature based on the collection of the internationally renowned fashion historian Alexandre Vassiliev. The show will offer its viewers a rare opportunity to enjoy a nature-inspired selection of numerous gowns and accessories dating from the 18th to the 21st centuries.

The current exhibition Tamed Nature is already the eighth running project organized by the Latvian National Museum of Art in cooperation with ABLV Bank and Alexandre Vassiliev Foundation. It is dedicated to the everlasting symbiosis of nature and fashion that has found reflection in a surprisingly wide range of combinations, experienced through three centuries – from the 18th century to the present day. The current exhibition in Riga is a world premiere, since Alexandre Vassiliev has never selected and arranged the show of the kind before.

There is undeniable evidence that people in all epochs have tried to transform and domesticate nature, and in doing so, they have recognized it as one of the ways to implement their power. At the same time, nature has always been a challenging and inexhaustible source of inspiration for artists, musicians, poets, architects, and fashion designers. The rich and ever-changing world of nature has traditionally bestowed wonderful ideas on humans, and has motivated us to create a more beautiful, harmonious and comfortable habitat, and it has helped us accentuate our own distinctiveness. The waters of the ocean depths, forests, meadows, flowers, animals, birds and insects help us discover unusual color combinations, new shapes and silhouettes, and ornamental patterns.

Following the concept of the owner of the collection and the exhibition curator, exhibits are not grouped chronologically, but, instead, arranged in thematic blocks – forest, garden, sea, ocean, jungle, savannah, and exotics. Each clothing and accessories’ group (hats, purses, shoes, jewelry, furs, articles of leather and suede) tells its own story about the relationship with nature. For example, the bright colors of the jungle and their occupants – pythons, parrots, birds of paradise, and panthers; soft tones of savannah and its rich fauna – elephants, zebras, lions. In turn, beige shades of sand, amber and shells remind us of the beach, while the immense underwater world of the ocean reveals fish, sea turtles, sea stars, corals, and pearls.

The exhibition also vividly represents the impact of park and garden culture on original fashion solutions: shady trees, lavish flower beds, butterflies, and singing birds. Outstanding couturiers have interpreted nature in most astonishing patterns of fabric prints and creative designs exploiting various plant motifs, introducing, apart from berries, even vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, onions, and carrots which have found their depiction in fashion garments.

Alexandre Vassiliev claims, “As you know, each century and decade has its own favorites: thus in the 18th century, during Marie Antoinette's lifetime, also men loved to show off wearing trendy floral garland embroidery vests; in the 19th century topical were coral jewelry, pearl embroideries, articles of mother of pearl and tortoise bone. During the first decade of the 20th century, luxurious ladies wore ermine muffs, corsets stiffened with baleen stays and considerable size flower-adorned hats, whereas in the 1930s fox boa became enormously popular. During the 1940s python skin shoes, crocodile, lizard and toad skin purses came into fashion, but if we were to inspect women’s wardrobes in the 1950s, in each of them we could find a romantic floral print dress, presumably adorned with mayflower pattern.”

Overall, the show comprises 100 costumes, never exhibited before, and more than 300 accessories.

The exhibition is complemented by an extensive program of events "Nature of Fashion", which includes a cycle of six lectures, meetings, and discussions with the participation of fashion field experts, as well as a variety of creative activities.


Alexandre Vassliev (Александр Васильев) is a famous Russian and French fashion historian, an internationally acclaimed costume, set and interior designer, collector, author of the popular books and articles, lecturer, television anchorman, and tireless fashion promoter. He is the honorable member of Russian Academy of Arts, the Head of Russian Fashion Academy, the founder of the international interior award Lilies of Alexandre Vassliev, as well as the President of the Alexandre Vassiliev Foundation.

Alexandre Vassliev was born on 8 December 1958 in Moscow into a famous theatrical family. In 1982, Vassliev immigrated to Paris where he began to work for French theatres. Alexandre Vassiliev has created more than 100 stage designs for leading ballet and opera theatres, as well as theatre performance and movie designs for different companies in 25 countries of the world. He has collaborated with Théâtre du Rond-Point, theatres Le Lucernaire and Cartoucherie, L’Opera Bastille in Paris, Avignon festival, Ballet du Nord, New Ballet of France, Royal Ballet of Versailles, Royal Opera, National Theatre in London, Scottish Ballet in Glasgow, Latvian National Opera and Ballet, Royal Ballet of Flanders, Masako Ohya Ballet in Osaka, Asami Maki Ballet in Tokyo, Nevada Ballet, Opera and Ballet of Santiago, etc.

Alexandre Vassliev is holding master classes and courses on the theme of fashion in Russian universities and colleges. He communicates in four languages and teaches college and university students the history of fashion and stage design all over the world.

Alexandre Vassliev has written many books and has worked also as a special Paris reporter doing Russian language editions for such outstanding fashion magazines as Vogue and Harper’s Bazzar. Since the year 2000, he has been the leader of the Fashion festival Povolzhskiye Seasons by Alexandre Vassiliev, held in Samara (Russia). Since the year 2002, he has been participating in the creation of TV shows playing the key role. In October 2003, the design studio Alexandre Vassiliev’s Interiors was opened in Moscow.

For his contribution to the development and popularization of Russian art Alexandre Vassiliev received several awards: the Diaghiliev Medal (Paris), the Vaslav Nijinsky Medal (Warsaw), order Patron, and Gold Medal of the Russian Art Academy. Alexandre Vassiliev has been honored twice with the TOBAV Prize in Turkey. In 2010, The World Fashion Awards conferred the title “Fashion Legend of the Year” on Alexandre Vassiliev.

Photo: publicity photo from The Alexandre Vassiliev Foundation collection

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