Souvenirs from the Silk Road
May 3 - November 6, 2016
An exhibition designed by Jean-Louis Mainguy, takes us on a personal journey along the Silk Road, from China to Beirut, via Singapore, India, London, Paris and Rome.
This journey is expressed through the beautiful silk dresses and accessories worn by Alexandra Asseily on memorable occasions between the 1950’s to the 1980’s.
Our journey starts with Alexandra as a teenager, in the Far East, where her father, future Admiral of the British Navy, was stationed. Her Russian mother helped her to select the finest Chinese silk fabrics. These were later fashioned into dresses, in Paris and in London. One of which she wore at her presentation to Queen Elizabeth, aged 18 and another one at a ceremony in honor of the King of Siam in Windsor Palace. Also, notice the CheongSam - the typical Chinese dress - that was made for her in Hong Kong.
Alexandra then discovered her own taste and style and her love of beautiful and various textures. She was able to apply skills learned as a child at school, such as weaving, embroidery and many other handicrafts, as she re-discovered the ability to create her own and her children’s clothes, developping a particular taste for authentic and original fabrics and an eye for colour.
This pioneering spirit and search for timeless elegance pushed her during her studies in Paris to take classes in cutting and sewing. Indeed in the expo one can discover dresses both designed, cut and sewn by her. She transformed Indian saris and silks from Aleppo into hats … she composed, decomposed and recomposed… her way. She created a rebellious fashion that is a reflection of her as a person.
In London, she was attracted to silk fabrics and designs by Zika Ascher, famous for his designs for Dior, as well as other great names in fashion. Ascher was touched by Alexandra’s admiration of his work and sometimes offered her short lengths of silk to design herself.
After her marriage in Lebanon in 1969, Alexandra balanced the latest ‘looks’ of Haute Couture and artisanal traditions. Notice her ‘mini’ Dior wedding dress and hat and the long, gold embroidered satin caftan worn on the same day. Her parents in law understood her original style and generously offered her Haute Couture dresses, chosen to suit her ‘look’.
On this silk road of personal souvenirs, Alexandra shows her ability to surprise and dare.
Alexandra and George Asseily have owned the land and the former silk factory since 1972. After many years of restoring the land, the terraces, rehabilitating trees and buildings, and keeping the traditions of stone work and agriculture alive, the Silk Museum became a feature of Lebanon’s culture and history in 2001.