The Alexandre Vassiliev Foundation was established in November 2012 in Vilnius, Lithuania. This unique institution has as its mission the preservation of the extraordinary collection of its founder, Alexandre Vassiliev, and the continuation of his work. Since 2001, a temporary exhibition from Alexandre Vassiliev’s private collection has been presented in the Museum of Applied Arts and Design in Vilnius, Lithuania. Subsequently, the private collection has been transformed into a Foundation in order to continue its partnership with the Lithuanian National Museum. Nowadays, the Museum of Applied Arts and Design remains the primary place of conservation for Alexandre Vassiliev’s treasures. It is also the first and the most important semi-private museum of fashion in Eastern Europe. The Foundation created and developed other regular partnerships with the Fashion Museum of Riga, Latvia, the Schloss Fall Museum in Keila-Joa, Estonia, and the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan. The Alexandre Vassiliev Foundation also contributes culturally through its dissemination of fashion exhibitions generating more than twenty annual exhibitions worldwide! Since 1983 there have been over 200 exhibitions held all over the world.
How it All Started Alexandre Vassiliev’s private collection was started in the mid-70s in Moscow. As a young boy Alexandre collected primarily historical objects related to the Russian fashion. The generosity of his father, a renowned Russian painter and decorator, helped him to finance it. Aa early as the late 70s, the Soviet Union and some countries in Eastern Europe began referencing this collection in its media. In 1982 Alexandre Vassiliev emigrated to France, where he began a career as a professor of the history of fashion in the famous school ESMOD. Alexandre would attend Drouot auction houses and flea markets of Paris where he would find lots of treasures for his collection. He was also introduced to the closed circle of White Russian immigrants, where he met several remarkable figures like the designer Erte, artist Dimitri Bouchene, singer Ludmilla Lopato and some representatives of the Russian royal families as well as models and fashion designers. He would also visit the still living dancers of the Ballets Russes: Irina Baronova, Ida Rubinstein, Tamara Karsavina, Tatiana Lescova, Rostislav Doboujnsky, Serge Lifar and Xenia Tripolitova. All these people made significant donations to the collection, especially Xenia Tripolitova with trunks full of ballet costumes she wore between 1930 and 1950. Education Alexandre Vassiliev’s first book “Beauty in Exile” (published in Russian in 1998 and in English in 2000 by Abrams New York) became an instant bestseller. Since then it has been republished seventeen more times! Inspired by his initial success, Vassiliev wrote dozens of books dedicated to fashion history, such as “Russian Hollywood”, “The Russian Interior Photo”, “150 Years of Russian Fashion”, “Three Centuries of European Fashion” and “Studies on Fashion and Style”. Due to his charismatic writing style and great knowledge, Alexandre Vassiliev is now recognized as an expert of Russian fashion history. The Foundation organized several thematic exhibitions, most notably “120 Years of Russian Fashion”, a show on Red Square for the anniversary of GUM (State Department Store) with up to 40,000 visitors, “Art Deco Style in Fashion”, “The Victorian Fashion” exhibition, attended by over 80 000 visitors, “New Art and Fashion”, which has claimed more than 200 000 entries, “From War and Peace”, “From Mini to Maxi”, and most recently, “Revolt in a Boudoir” and “70’s Glamour”. Some of these exhibitions traveled to Australia, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Istanbul, Venice, Paris, Chile to name a few.
In the last few years the collection has expanded considerably. It is now considered to be one of the most important private collections related to fashion in the world (as ranked by Elle USA in November 2010). The Alexandre Vassiliev Foundation has amassed over 500,000 items and includes vintage clothing, predominantly European, from the early eighteenth century until the present day, and various fashion accessories. The Alexandre Vassiliev Foundation also holds a large collection of photographs and a library related to fashion. From the eras of Louis XV and Louis XVI, the Foundation is preserving aristocratic clothing, that originated from the collections of the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. There is a lavish collection of French, English and Italian fans, as well as purses, wallets and corsets from the gallant eighteenth century. Inevitably, the biggest names in French Haute Couture and European fashion are included in this section. The collection retains a rare dress created by the first fashion house branded “Worth & Boberg”. The nineteenth century is also well represented, with Alexandre Vassiliev having a particular liking for that time period. It contains a lot of beaded items (purses, mittens), nosegay, dance cards, lorgnettes, wallets and purses, parasols, firebreaks, bracelets, perfume bottles, mosaic as well as stockings, suspenders and shoes. This rich collection has been the subject of regularly held public exhibitions and studies published in various books and catalogues. The Alexandre Vassiliev Collection has a particular focus on objects of fashion that are linked to major political upheavals, revolutions and wars. The Foundation holds a large collection of clothing associated with the First World War, with the Russian Revolution and Soviet fashion behind the Iron Curtain as well as French and German clothing from the Second World War which includes dresses, hats, shoes, jewellery and cosmetics (powder, blush, cream, lipstick, perfume). The Foundation is proud to preserve the artworks from the greatest international houses such as Doucet, Paquin, Poiret, Chanel, Schiaparelli, Dior, Courreges, Redfern, Fortuny, Babani and others. The largest part of the collection consists of thousands of dresses made between the years 1900 and 2000 by major fashion couture houses as well as ready-to-wear, sometimes having belonged to great personalities such as the Duchess of Windsor, Lauren Bacall, Leslie Caron, Romola Nijinski, Fafzia Princess of Egypt, Eleonora Duse and others. The Alexandre Vassiliev Foundation is passionate about the cultural phenomenon of the Ballets Russes. The collection includes costumes designed by Leon Bakst for Diaghilev, Natalia Goncharova, Michel Larionov, Pablo Picasso, Raoul Duffy, Erte and Georges Wakhevitch. There are also souvenirs of Russian Ballet that belonged to Tamara Toumanova, Irina Baronova, Alexandra Danilova, Maya Plisetskaya, Galina Panova, and many others.