Azzedine Alaia: 1940-2017
On Saturday morning, November 18th 2017, the world lost a visionary whose creations embraced femininity and empowered women. Azzedine Alaïa, the ‘King of Cling’, was a mastermind at combining traditional techniques with his innate knowledge of the woman’s body, resulting in timeless masterpieces. With his reputable work ethic and uncompromising attitude, he exhibited his own designs at his own schedule, breaking away from the traditional fashion mould. Since the news of his death, we have seen tributes and kind words from the fashion world flood social media, all of which only act as a testament to his 40 year impact in fashion and its industry. As Edward Enninful, edior-in-chief at Vogue graciously reminded us “The generosity of his spirits and genius of his designs will never be forgotten”. So let’s start now, on our blog, decade by decade, we take a look back at Mr Alaïa’s extraordinary life.
• Alaïa was born and raised in Tunis, Tunisia in the early 1940’s. His parents were wheat farmers but his love for creation was inspired by his glamorous twin sister, whom he loved very dearly.
• With a passion for the arts, Alaïa lied about his age to study at the local Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Tunis where he gained valuable experience and insights into human form; he began to study sculpturing.
• After graduating, Alaïa started working as a dressmaker’s assistant and soon began dressing private clients.
• In 1957, Alaïa moved to Paris to work in fashion design. He took a job as a tailor for Christian Dior.
• In this decade, Alaïa worked for many Parisian classics including Guy Caroche and Theirry Mugler. During this time, he developed his designing skills and learnt about the daily running’s of a business.
• In the late 1970’s, Alaïa decided to open his first atelier at his little Rue de Bellechase apartment, where he would stay for the next two decades, privately dressing some of the worlds biggest names; Marie-Helene de Rothschild, Louise de Vilmorin and Greta Garbo to name a few.
• The 80’s was a big decade for the Tunisian designer; kick-started by the production of his first Ready-To-Wear collection in 1980.
• In that same year, his collection began to be stocked in America after a Bergdorf Goodman buyer reportedly stopped interior designer Andree Putman in the street wearing an Alaïa leather jacket demanding to know where it was from.
• In 1984 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.
• His career only continued to blossom after featuring in editorials by two of the most influential fashion editors of the time; Melka Treanton of Depeche Mode and Nicole Crassat of Elle, France.
• By 1988 he opened his own boutiques in both New York City and Beverly Hills; and of course, Paris.
• He popularised the stretchy body conscious silhouette and was docked as the ‘King Of Cling’ by the media.
• Following the death of his sister in 1992, Alaïa virtually disappeared from the fashion scene. Refraining from the spotlight Alaïa continued to cater to his private clientele and enjoyed great success with his RTW collections.
• Avoiding the mainstream fashion week in Paris, Alaïa presented his collections in his own space under his own schedule and combined his creative workshop, boutique and showroom under one roof in the heart of Marais.
• In 1995, he famously designed supermodel Stephanie Seymor’s wedding dress, reportedly taking over 1600 hours to make.
• At the start of the new millennium, Alaïa signed a partnership with Prada Group and saw a revival in the public eye. Interestingly and quite remarkably, he managed to maintain a degree of independence when working with the fashion leaders.
• In 2007, he bought the Prada Group out of his ready-to-wear line leaving them only Alaia footwear.
• Later that year, luxury retail group Richemont bought a percentage of the business as an entity.
• Known to be very shy, it’s reported that Alaïa turned down the Legion D’Honneur in 2008 – France’s most prestigious honour. He said, “I don't like decorations - except on women. My dress on a woman -that's a beautiful decoration."
• In the summer of 2011, Alaïa presented his first catwalk show in seven years, which attracted a star-studded front row; including Donatella Versace and Sofia Coppola. The show received a standing ovation.
• 2012 saw the announcement of Alaïa’s new store opening in Paris in March 2013; his first since the death of his sister.
• Alaïa presented his first couture collection in the Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week 2017. Naomi Campbell, his dear friend who refers to him as ‘Papa’, opened the show. The event, which received the upmost respect and recognition from the fashion industry, proved to be his last gift to the world.
• On 18th November, 2017, it was announced Alaïa had died in Paris at the age of 77.