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Couture in Conversation

Past and present meet at Olivier Saillard's new exhibition of haute couture

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Olivier Rousteing and Nadja Swarovski   
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"I want to create a museum not of fashion but of sculptures of fashion," said Olivier Saillard, the maverick director of Paris' fashion museum, the Musée Galliera. "That is how fashion should be considered." His retrospective of haute couture at the Hôtel de Ville—a preview of what will be coming to the Galliera when it reopens after renovations next Fall—offered a case in point. A 1956 silk-and-velvet dress by Madame Grès had an especially sculptural provenance. The museum received it in pieces, and it was up to the curator to put it back together again.

For the show, which is being presented by Swarovski, Saillard had gathered together works by the giants of couture and its more contemporary practitioners—from Vionnet, Grès, and Dior to Raf Simons and Bouchra Jarrar. It seemed half the designers currently working in Paris attended last night's vernissage to pay their respects and draw inspiration. "This is why I wanted to come back to Paris for my collection, to revisit a dream," said Balmain's Olivier Rousteing, admiring a fifties-era bustier gown. "Back then, people really knew how to dream." Rousteing had his own show behind him, but even those designers working to the last minute on their own productions made time for a viewing. Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren took a break from fittings to stop by for a recharge. "Schiaparelli makes my heart beat faster," Snoeren said.

The evening was especially poignant for those designers whose work had been included in august company. "I was very moved when Olivier asked me for the dress," said Jarrar, whose dress was keeping company with a 1923 Chanel. "The way he staged it, they do seem to have their own little conversation going on."

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