Azzedine Alaïa – Man who fully understood the female body

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One year passed from the death of Azzedine Alaïa. This year in May was celebrated with a dedicated retrospective exhibition at the Design Museum in London. The designer had worked on the retrospective with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the Groninger Museum, before he died. The show had shown his legacy and the impact his work had internationally. Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier featured 60 examples of Alaïa’s work from his archive, spanning the past 35 years, selected personally by the designer himself.

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Azzedine Alaïa

Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier featured 60 examples of Alaïa’s work from his archive, spanning the past 35 years, selected personally by the designer himself.

Azzedine Alaïa was a Tunisian-born couturier and shoe designer, particularly successful beginning in the 1980s.  A French friend of Azzedine’s mother, Mrs. Pineau, fed Alaïa’s instinctive creativity with copies of Vogue. He lied about his age to get himself into the local École des Beaux-Arts in Tunis, where he gained valuable insights into the human form and began studying sculpture. He worked as a dressmaker with his sister to pay for school supplies.  After his graduation, Alaïa began working as a dressmaker’s assistant. He soon began dressing private clients, and in 1957 he moved to Paris to work in fashion design.

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Azzedine Alaïa

Alaïa sculpted his work to a Rodin level of craftsmanship (Alaïa himself trained as a sculptor), never losing shape of how his work would look on a woman – fit and flare shapes and nipped-in waists are key signatures. He always created dresses tailored to the female body. Drawing inspiration from the ancient Amazons, his work challenged pre-conceived notions of femininity.

Alaïa produced his first ready-to-wear collection in 1980 and moved to larger premises on rue du Parc-Royal in the Marais district. He was voted Best Designer of the Year and Best Collection of the Year at the Oscars de la Mode by the French Ministry of Culture in 1984. His career skyrocketed when two of the most powerful fashion editors of the time, Melka Tréanton of Depeche Mode and Nicole Crassat of French Elle, supported him in their editorials. By 1988, he had opened his own boutiques in these two cities and in Paris. Azzedine’s seductive, clinging clothes were a massive success and he was named by the media ‘The King of Cling’. Alaïa sculpted his work to a Rodin level of craftsmanship (Alaïa himself trained as a sculptor), never losing shape of how his work would look on a woman – fit and flare shapes and nipped-in waists are key signatures. He always created dresses tailored to the female body. Drawing inspiration from the ancient Amazons, his work challenged pre-conceived notions of femininity.

Azzedine’s clothes were a massive success and he was named by the media ‘The King of Cling’.

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Azzedine Alaïa with Naomi Campbell
ph: Vogue

In 2000, he signed a partnership with the Prada group and in July 2007, he successfully bought back his house and brand name from the Prada group, though his footwear and leather goods division continues to be developed and produced by the group. In 2007, the Richemont group, which owns Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, took a stake in his fashion house but he still does not show during the collections.

Azzedine Alaia show, Runway, Fall Winter 2017, Haute Couture Fashion Week, Paris, France - 05 Jul 2017

Azzedine Alaïa FALL 2017 collection
ph: wwd.com

Madonna honored him in her 1993 “Bad Girl” video. She rips the plastic off her dry cleaned suit, the tag of which reads “Alaïa.” The former First Lady of France, Carla Bruni, wore an Alaïa jacket during the state visit to Spain in 2009.  Azzedine Alaïa was named Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur by the French government in 2008. 

Alaïa once lashed out at the Vogue editor-in-chief: “She runs the business very well, but not the fashion part. When I see how she is dressed, I don’t believe in her tastes one second… Anyway, who will remember Anna Wintour in the history of fashion? No one”, and also at Karl Lagerfeld:  “I don’t like his fashion, his spirit, his attitude. It’s too much caricature. Karl Lagerfeld never touched a pair of scissors in his life.” 

Author Bio

BoyanaKeko

Boyana Keko

Boyanakeko is current student at the Faculty of Psychology at Sapienza University of Rome. She is editor-in-chief and author at Vitae Moderna. ✉️ boyanakeko@vitaemoderna.com