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Azzedine Alaïa: The Last Great Couturier

Emily John
 Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier exhibition at The Design Museum

Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier exhibition at The Design Museum

If you admire Alaïa as much as we do, chances are you are well aware of The Design Museum in London opening a new exhibition this week dedicated to the late fashion designer. Or you might remember that epic scene from Clueless where Cher refuses to lie down on the filthy pavement while being robbed at gunpoint, exclaiming: ‘ You don’t understand, this is an Alaïa!’ Either way, make sure to pen down Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier in your diary as Alaïa himself co-curated the first ever UK exhibition on his legacy.  The exposition focuses on his journey from sculpture to couturier from 1980’s to 2017.  And with more than 60 couture pieces on display, rather than just a retrospective, it will shed light on the brilliant technique and craft that was applied in creating his pieces.

 Alaïa with Linda Evangalista at his atelier

Alaïa with Linda Evangalista at his atelier

Born in Tunis, Azzedine studied sculpture at Ècole des Beaux Arts before choosing to apply his self-taught skills in fashion design. He moved to Paris in 1957 and started working for Christian Dior and collaborated with other esteemed designers like Guy Laroche and Thierry Mugler, before opening his own atelier in 1979.  He invented the body-con style and enhanced the female form through his designs; created on the body instead of a sketch table. His work was made to be worn by Amazons so it was no surprise that the original supermodels of the ’80s specially flew down to Paris to walk his shows. No small feat considering that New York was the centre of the fashion industry during that time.  

Alaïa was widely known for his hospitality as he fed all his guests and workers at his apartment in the Marais, which also served as his atelier, shop and showroom. He was an absolute perfectionist who could spend 5 weeks or 5 years making a dress and he was adamant about doing everything himself, from cutting and fitting to sewing samples. He even altered all the patterns after the catwalk shows so his designs would fit the more average figure of a woman; usually carried out by fashion technicians specialised in this field. He didn’t accede to commercialism and refused to move to the incredulous speed of the fashion system.  Nevertheless, his designs were equally celebrated in Hollywood as in fashion; his impressive client list included Michelle Obama, Greta Garbo and he even dressed Grace Jones as May Day in the Bond film A View To A Kill.

With Alaïa, quality was definitely over quantity and each garment was carefully constructed and finished by his own hand seeing that he was always perfecting his own technique as opposed to following trends.  In continuous pursuit of innovation, he used stingray to construct bra tops and created dresses out of raffia and horsehair. He also laser-cut leather and fabrics to create his signature accessories and fitted silhouettes. He entered into a successful partnership with Prada in 2000 and the brand introduced a line of accessories with perforated bags and studded platform heels that are highly coveted to this day.

Alaia boots.JPG
Alaia bag.JPG

Alaïa’s leather creations are, just like his clothes, made with a sculptural approach and astonishing attention to detail.  His timeless designs are often considered heirlooms that should be preserved for future generations. “Once you start wearing Alaïa you just never stop” For this reason, we are always excited to receive Alaïa's work at The Restory atelier as we can help refresh the colour of your laser-cut leather tote or keep the studs of your platform boots in place! Please contact service@the-restory.com for details. 

- Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier will be open until 7th October 2018

 Azzedine Alaïa with one of his couture pieces

Azzedine Alaïa with one of his couture pieces