Azzedine Alaïa: The Legendary Couturier Who Moved To The Beat Of His Own Drum

—a thread✨
Known in the fashion industry as the “King of Cling” as a result of his pieces that were structured and tailored to fit a woman’s form like a glove and for not conforming to the fashion industry’s way of doing things,
Alaïa would go on to leave his mark as one of the best to ever do it. Born in Tunis, Tunisia on February 26th to wheat farmers, Alaïa’s journey to fashion would start with his family’s midwife Madame Pinot, who was also a dressmaker, giving him Vogue magazines, catalogues
from department stores and her art books for him to roam through.The same woman would then encourage 15 years old Alaïa to go to l’ École des Beaux-arts in Tunis (Tunis Institute of Fine Arts). Alaïa would lie about his age to attend the school
where he would learn the art of sculpting which would go on to be very crucial in his fashion career. Alaïa’s sister, Hafida, taught him how to sew, a skill he would use to sew hems for a local dressmaker during his breaks from school.
His fashion journey continued with him working for a French dressmaker Madame Richard whom he assisted in remaking copies from couture collections of household names such as Pierre Balmain and Cristóbal Balenciaga for wealthy Tunisian women. He would then move to France in 1957.
Upon his move to Paris in the late 1950s, and with the help of Leila’s(a friend of his) mother, who was well acquainted with the likes of Dior’s clients, Alaïa would score a job as a tailleur under Yves Saint Laurent’s Christian Dior. However this job would barely last a week...
...because the Algerian war just ended and he would get fired for being a foreigner, a North African. He stated in a 2009 interview with Interview Magazine that “...After five days they said to me, “You can’t work here any longer. You’re a foreigner.”
Few years later he would produce the prototype of the famous Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian Dress.
A fellow Tunisian Simone Zehrfuss introduced Alaïa to the upper echelon set of Paris and his clientele, composed of chic, intelligent and aristocratic women, would expand. The renowned writer Louise de Vilmorin, socialites Cécile and Marie-Hélène de Rostchild
and the French movie star Arletty would become some of his dedicated clients.Alaïa then went on to work for Guy Laroche for two seasons then designed for Thierry Mugler who greatly appreciated his savoir faire and who would encourage him to start his own maison de mode.
Alaïa who liked to be hands on with everything from the choosing of fabrics himself to the cuttings, the fittings, would open his maison in 1979. He went on to launch his first Prêt-à-Porter collection and rose to international fame in the 1980s.
The designer would popularize in the 80s stretchable dresses that clung to the body of its wearer like a second skin, and cinched the wearers waist. This earned him the nickname “King of Cling.”
He deservedly shined all through the 80s and would continue on in the 90s even after the designer retired partially in the mid 90s after the death of his sister Hafida. He would only continue making clothes for his private clients. And provide his RTW lines to retailers
He’ll make a come back to runway in 2000 with his FW 2001 RTW collection after selling the entirety of his fashion house to Prada with the agreement that he’ll continue working at his pace. He bought his whole company back in 2007 to sell it off again to the Richemont Group,
owners of Cartier, Piaget, Chloé...etc
Alaïa was a designer who stayed true to the art of making clothes and not abide to the fashion industry’s ways of doing things. He was not interested in keeping up with trends, marketing his products or presenting collections
...when his fellow designers would during fashion week. The demand of his clothes and peoples willingness to wait whenever for his collections would allow him the autonomy of doing things as he saw fit. Not restrained by the fashion industry’s timetables,
he was free to create whatever his heart desired, at the pace he wanted and only revealing his collections to the world when he felt they were ready. “Fashion is dead. Designers nowadays do not create anything, they only make clothes so people and the press would talk about
them....Alaïa remains the king. He is smart enough to not only care about people talking about him. He only holds fashion shows when he has something to show, on his own time frame...” once stated the former editor-in-chief of Marie Claire Magazine, Catherine Lardeur. Alaïa was
more about making pieces that actually made women feel gorgeous, sexy and confident and less about “it bags. In 2009,Anna Wintour who was overseeing the “Model as Muse” exhibition for the Met excluded Alaïa knowing well he had a long relationship with a lot of the 90s supermodels
whom he also considered his muses. It would become a known fact that the designer was not fond of Anna Wintour due the fact that the Vogue EIC barely photographed his work. In 2011 he would state to what was then Virginie Magazine that “ [Anna] runs the business (Vogue)
very well, but not the fashion part. When I see how she is dressed, I don’t believe in her tastes one second,” He said. “I can say it loudly! She hasn’t photographed my work in years even if I’m the best seller in the US...” he stated. He continued with saying “...she scares
everybody. But when she sees me she’s the one scared.” He would finish by suggesting that the Vogue Editor-in-Chief’s legacy would not be an everlasting one.
It’ll take him six years from 2011 to present his next collections. The 2017 Couture show opened by longtime friend and muse of his, Naomie Campbell would be his last show. Azzedine Alaïa died in November of 2017 leaving behind a legacy that could never be undone.
The “designer’s designer” will forever be remembered as the creator of timeless body-hugging pieces that were carved to celebrate the female silhouette, for his humility and for his remarkable savoir faire.
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