A TO Z OF DESIGNERS AZZEDINE ALAIA
Famously shy and infamously independent, Azzedine Alaia is one of the world’s most respected fashion designers. Held in the highest esteem for his startlingly honest approach, he has been resolute in not bowing to the pressures or demanding timetables of the fashion industry’s annual diary – instead crafting and showing his creations in his own time.
Idolised by Naomi Campbell and christened ´The King Of Cling´ by Suzie Menkes, he is known for his signature body-con silhouettes. His talent for producing discreet luxury has seen his empire become one of the most prestigious and respected of his generation.
¨ Fashion will last forever. It will exist always. It will exist in its own way in each era. I live in the moment. It’s interesting to know the old methods. But you have to live in the present moment. ¨ – Azzedine Alaia
1. Born on June 7, 1939 in Tunisia’s capital city, Tunis.
2. Alaia possessed a passion for the arts from a young age, eventually studying sculpture in the local École des Beaux-Arts in Tunis.
3. In 1957, he moved to Paris and worked for some of the biggest names in the fashion industry at the time, including Christian Dior, Guy Laroche and Thierry Mugler.
4. In the late Seventies, he opened his first atelier in his small apartment – from where he created gowns for the fashion glitterati, such as Marie-Hélène de Rothschild and Greta Garbo.
5. In 1980, he showed his first ready-to-wear collection.
6. In the same year a Bergdorf Goodman buyer reportedly stopped someone in the street that was wearing an Alaia leather coat and demanded to know where it was from. This led to Alaia being stocked in America and eventually the opening of a stand-alone store.
7. In 1984, he was voted Best Designer of the Year and Best collection of the Year by the French Ministry of Culture.
8. His career continued to grow from strength-to-strength as his work was featured in editorials by influential fashion publications.
9. In the mid-Eighties, Alaia popularised the stretchy body-conscious silhouette, accentuating the bust and cinching in waists.
10. After the death of his twin sister in the mid-Nineties, Alaia refrained from the fashion spotlight – preferring instead to cater for his devoted clientele out of his Marais workspace, which was simultaneously used as a workshop, boutique and showroom.
11. In 1995, Alaia designed supermodel Stephanie Seymour’s wedding dress – reportedly took 1,600 hours to make.
12. In 2000 he signed a partnership with the Prada group, which saw a huge resurgence in his popularity. Remarkably, he managed to retain a level of independence when working with the group – not bowing to pressure from investors, but staying loyal to his vision for his eponymous fashion house.
13. In July 2007, he bought the Prada group out of the ready-to-wear line of his business, leaving them in charge only of footwear. Later the same year, luxury group Richemont bought a percentage of the business.
14. He claims to have turned down the Legion D’Honneur in 2008 -France’s most prestigious honour: “You know Sarkozy offered methe medal? I refused,” he told the Business of Fashion in July 2011. “People said that I refused because I don’t like Sarkozy, but that’s ridiculous. I refused because I don’t like decorations – except on women. My dress on a woman -that’s a beautiful decoration.”
15. July 2011 saw Alaia’s first catwalk show in seven years, for which he was given a standing ovation. The event attracted a star-studded front row, including Donatella Versace and Sofia Coppola.
16. In July 2012 it was announced that Alaia was set to open a store in Paris in March 2013, his first since 1992. True to form, the emphasis is reportedly on keeping the building a low-key shopping destination in its relatively secret location.
17. His designs have been worn by everyone from American First Lady Michelle Obama and Carine Roitfeld, to Grace Jones and Lady Gaga.
18. Alaia currently resides in Paris, France.
Article: Charles Daniel McDonald / Vogue Designers Fact Sheet
Photography: Azzedine Alaia