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Alaïa the Great

 
 
 Alaïa the Great 
Good Bye
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Azzedine Alaïa, Good Bye. Azzedine Alaïa - a true visionary couturier and a remarkable man - has passed away. Celebrated for his mastery of cut, fit, tailoring, of innovative forms and materials, Alaïa designed by draping and sculpting directly on the human frame in the most refined degree of haute couture. Maison Alaïa lives on. Following the death of its founder Azzedine Alaïa on 18 November 2017, the Maison said it would continue to create new collections and ramp up exhibitions devoted to its fashion legacy and know-how.
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Azzedine Alaïa
20 Year Retrospective

 
 


 
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Model Stephanie Seymour, a longtime fan of the great designer, is interviewed with him on the occasion of a 20 year retrospective of his work. Includes taped interviews with Grace Jones, Tina Turner, Roman Polanski, Linda Evangelista, Calvin Klein, Sigourney Weaver, Iman, Naomi Campbell, and Veronica Webb. Seen modeling Alaia in clips from throughout his lengthy career include Grace Jones, Veronica Webb, Naomi Campbell, Helena Christensen, Yasmeen Ghauri, Yasmin Le Bon, Christy Turlington, Stephanie Seymour, Gail Elliott, and Susan Holmes.


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Alaïa the Great
1935 - 2017

Azzedine Alaïa & Stephanie Seymour at the Guggenheim Museum, 2004. Image courtesy IntrospectiveMagazine 

Azzedine Alaïa, Good Bye
. Azzedine Alaïa - a true visionary couturier and a remarkable man - has passed away. Despite his diminutive stature Azzedine Alaïa was a giant in the fashion world. Inès de la Fressange tweeted: “Small in stature but huge in the world. Adieu Azzedine Alaia.” Celebrated for his mastery of cut, fit, tailoring, of innovative forms and materials, Alaïa designed by draping and sculpting directly on the human frame in the most refined degree of haute couture. Famous for his sculpted cut dresses that celebrated the female form - he was one of the only designers to painstakingly cut his own patterns - was crowned by an army of devotees around the world as “King of Cling”.
Suzy Menkes once wrote of Alaïa: “The designer’s great skills are in judging proportions, understanding the female body and, of course, grasping the way fashion is moving.” Alaïa introduced garments such as leggings, bodysuits and body-enhancing dresses into fashion lexicon. A notorious perfectionist, the Paris-based couturier would work on a single outfit for many years if necessary before releasing it to the public.
Devotees included both fashion-inclined celebrities and fashionistas: Grace Jones (wearing several of his creations in A View to a Kill), Tina Turner, Raquel Welch, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Brigitte Nielsen, Naomi Campbell (who was like a daughter to him), Stephanie Seymour, Tatiana Sorokko, Shakira, Miley Cyrus, Isabelle Aubin, Carine Roitfeld and longtime friend Carla Sozzani. Michelle Obama made a rare concession to wearing a non-American designer when she chose his neat fit-and-flare knitted dresses while she was First Lady.

Azzedine Alaïa | Supermodels concept. With his iconic shows of the Eighties and Nineties, the maverick couturier ‘invented’ the concept of the “supermodel”,  including Naomi Campbell — whose career he helped build after unofficially “adopting” her at the age of 16 — Cindy Crawford, Helena Christensen and Linda Evangelista while Veronica Webb lived with him for a period when she was 19. Stephanie Seymour was just 15 when she first modeled for him. “It was Azzadine who invented the supermodel thing. The first time I saw all the supermodels together on the runway, not that they were called that then, was at Azzadine’s on the runway,” said Suzy Menkes in in a recent documentary on Azzedine Alaïa by the stylist Joe McKenna. (https://www.joesfilm.com)


Azzedine Alaïa | Couture, “I-did-it-my-way”. Alaïa was revered for his independence and passion for discreet luxury and eschewed the industry's calendar, instead preferring to show a look only once he felt it was finished and delivering when he was ready, a practice that would be the ruin of almost any other designer. “Basically I don’t give a damn when [Alaïa’s delivery] comes as long as it does,” Barney’s co-president Gene Pressman told The New Yorker in 1994. “Whenever it arrives, I’ll take it because he doesn’t make mistakes. He makes classics.

July 2017 - To celebrate their 35-year partnership, Azzedine Alaïa and Barneys New York have created an exclusive capsule collection. The collection takes its inspiration from classic Alaïa silhouettes dating back to the 1980s. Photo courtesy Barney's

Catherine Lardeur, the former editor and chief of French Marie Claire in the 1980s, stated in an interview to Crowd Magazine that “Fashion is dead. Designers nowadays do not create anything, they only make clothes so people and the press would talk about them.The real money for designers lie within perfumes and handbags. It is all about image. Alaia remains the king. He is smart enough to not only care about having people talk about him. He only holds fashion shows when he has something to show, on his own time frame. Even when Prada owned him he remained free and did what he wanted to do.
During the mid-1990s, following the death of his sister, Alaïa virtually vanished from the fashion scene; however, he continued to cater to a private clientele and enjoyed commercial success with his ready-to-wear lines. He presented his collections in his own space, in the heart of the Marais, where he brought his creative workshop, boutique and showroom together under one roof. He signed a partnership with Prada in 2000, but quit seven years later to work with Swiss luxury group Compagnie Financière Richemont, who also owns several of the most prestigious names in the luxury industry including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget, Vacheron Constantin. Richemont became a significant investor helping the Tunisian-born couturier to grow its accessory division as well as introducing a perfume. All the while allowing the couturier to continue to operate his prêt-à-porter at his own pace with more than 300 points of sale globally. 
After eight years of eschewing the runway, Azzedine Alaïa closed out the Fall 2011 couture season. Models in velvet gowns and Mongolian lamb coats stomped out to Josephine Baker singing “Je suis snob” and Beyonce's
Girls Who Run the World, as guests Sofia Coppola (with daughter Romy Mars), Kanye West, and Donatella Versace looked on.
It took a 10-minute standing ovation and French culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand dragging Alaïa shyly from backstage for the designer to take a finale bow.  When asked why Mitterrand chose to attend only Alaïa's show during couture, he replied: “Designers all have a world — but Alaia has a universe.


Left: Naomi Campbell and Azzedine Alaia arrive for the 'Azzedine Alaia Fashion Show' at museum of modern art during Paris Fashion Week in Paris. (Sept. 25, 2013 - Source: PacificCoastNews.com).  Right: Naomi Campbell walked for Azzedine Alaia in his Couture FW 2017-18 collection in Paris this July. - Photo courtesy Azzedine Alaia

Tunisian-born Azzedine Alaïa was so grand that in 2011 he turned down the Légion d'honneur. “You know, Sarkozy offered [it],” he said. “I refused. People said I refused because I don't like Sarkozy, but that's ridiculous. I refused because I don't like decorations – except on women.

Azzedine Alaïa |  The Last Show. His final show, in July this year, was opened by supermodel Naomi Campbell – one of his protegees – who affectionately knew him as “Papa” with, sitting side-by-side front row, model and actress Farida Khelfa and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. Ahead of  the show, Campbell took to Instagram to pay tribute to the diminutive Tunisian, declaring her '#unconditionallove' for a '#beyondlegend' and commenting "It's always an honor to walk for you 1986 -2017".#congratulations #papa @azzedinealaiaofficial it's always an honor to walk for you #1986 -2017 ##alaiafall2017 #I Love You #unique #master #legend #unconditionallove❤ ❤ ❤
A post shared by Naomi Campbell (@iamnaomicampbell) on Jul 5, 2017 at 5:12pm PDT


Azzedine Alaïa | From Tunis to Paris. Born in Tunis, Tunisia, to wheat farmers parents, Alaïa’s love of fashion was inspired by his twin sister Hafida and family friends. He studied sculpture at the School of  Beaux-Arts in Tunis before working at a neighbourhood dressmaker’s shop that made copies of Parisian designers work. He moved to Paris in 1957 to pursue fashion design, and thanks to an introduction from ‘window designer’ Leïla Menchari spent a short apprenticeship sewing labels at Christian Dior ( the job at Christian Dior lasted five days, until his papers were found not to be in order) followed by two years as a part-time design assistant with Guy Laroche then for Thierry Mugler until he opened his first shop in the late 1970s. “From two seasons at Guy Laroche, I learned how. From the last elegant women in the world, I learned what,” the couturier once said.

From the beginning, he’s positioned himself as an outlier and set up his own court where craft remains king. Alaïa’s vision of strong, statuesque women resonated with the get-ahead “greed is good” ethos of that time, an era in which power, rather than romanticism, was ascendant. In Paris, Alaïa won the friendship of prominent women like Marie-Hélène de Rothschild, Simone Zehrfuss, Claudette Colbert, Louise de Vilmorin , Greta Garbo (who used to come incognito for her fittings) and the French film star Arletty (Léonie Marie Julie Bathiat), who remained a lifelong creative inspiration. These women fostered his dressmaking ability and introduced him to an elite private clientele. Maude Smyth wrote: “His clothes, which celebrate the body beautiful, were perfectly calibrated for an era obsessed with fitness. Moreover, Alaïa offered a total look — from high, high heel to tilted beret — that represented an exciting change from the separates-focused wardrobe of the 1970s.

Azzedine produced his first ready-to-wear collection in 1980 and moved to larger premises on rue du Parc-Royal in the Marais district. Alaïa 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 in a memorable event where Grace Jones carried him in her arms on stage! His seductive, clinging clothes were a massive success and he was named by the media 'The King of Cling'
 
 
AZZEDINE ALAIA |  “PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE”
Azzedine Alaïa | Maison Alaïa lives on. Following the death of its founder Azzedine Alaïa on 18 November 2017, the Maison said it would continue to create new collections and ramp up exhibitions devoted to its fashion legacy and know-how.
The couturier’s art foundation, the Azzedine Alaïa Association — which he began in 2007 with his life partner, the painter Christophe von Weyhe, and Carla Sozzani, the Milanese retailer behind the 10 Corso Como stores — will also become the Azzedine Alaïa Foundation, gathering works collected across 50 years at the Rue de Moussy headquarters, where he lived and worked. It also boasts a library dedicated to fashion and culture that will be made available to researchers.
Maison Alaïa will kick  off with an exhibition timed for Paris couture week in January 2018 curated by Olivier Saillard, who was behind a major Alaïa retrospective that marked the reopening of Paris’ Musée Galliera in 2013. The new exhibition will be held at the house’s headquarters in the Marais district, at the Galerie Alaïa, on Rue de la Verrerie.
Not only. The Design Museum in London will  present in spring 2018 Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,  an unique exhibition planned by Alaia himself exploring his passion and energy for fashion as he himself intended it to be seen. Alaïa,  had been working with the museum’s guest curator, Mark Wilson, on the exhibition, selecting rare pieces from his archive and providing documentation of his creative process.
The exhibition - set for a five-month run from 10th May - will present more than 60 outstanding examples of Alaïa’s craft from the past thirty-five years, selected personally by Monsieur Alaïa and guest curator Mark Wilson (Chief Curator of the Groninger Museum, NL). The exhibition will also integrate specially commissioned architectural elements by leading artists and designers with whom the couturier entertained a long-term creative dialogue, Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Konstantin Grcic, Marc Newson, Kris Ruhs, and Tatiana Trouvé.

Azzedine Alaïa was honored with solo exhibitions at:

MUSEE D'ART CONTEMPORAIN / BORDEAUX
1985

PALAZZO CORSINI / FLORENCE
1996

GRONINGER MUSEUM / GRONINGUE
1998

GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM / NEW YORK
2000

GRONINGER MUSEUM / GRONINGUE
2011-2012

NRW FORUM / DUSSELDORF
2013

MUSEE D'ART MODERNE / PARIS
2013-2014

PALAIS GALLIERA
2013 - 2014

GALLERIA BORGHESE / ROME
2015


Azzedine Alaïa exhibition in 2015 in the Galleria Borghese in Rome. Images courtesy Alaïa


credits and references
Photos:
© Azzedine Alaia / Photo: Robert Kot
Barney's
Fashionologie.com
Wikipedia
Groninger Museum: The exhibition "Azzedine Alaïa in the 21st century" was curated by Mark Wilson
BoF

PacificCoastNews.com

 
  
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