Monday, November 20, 2017

Homage to Azzedine Alaia

Legendary designer Azzedine Alaia passed away Saturday in Paris at the age of 77. His diminutive size belied an outsized imagination as well as an unwavering insistence to show his collections according to his own creative rhythms rather than those dictated by industry calendars and expectations.

Born in Tunisia to wheat farmers, Alaia left for Paris at the age of 17 to work for Dior however the Algerian war and incorrect immigration papers derailed those plans within just 5 days of his arrival. He eventually found his way to train in the ateliers of Guy Laroche and Thierry Mugler and in the late 1970's set-up his own studio catering to a wealthy, private clientele. He launched his first ready-to-wear collection in 1980 to unanimous critical acclaim and over the years cemented his reputation as a diviner of both the sensual and the erotic.

Alaia's meticulous manipulation of materials allowed him to create silhouettes which had the unique ability to make women look not only powerful but pretty. Drawing upon his early studies in sculpture, Alaia could mold leather into soft, undulating tulip shapes and with geometric precision he fully-fashioned knits to pleat, tuck, and fold giving them structure and volume without sacrificing the comfort and ease expected of knitwear.

Known as "The King of Cling" for his curve-enhancing creations, his work gave rise to an entirely new visual vocabulary in knitwear. Alaia proposed intricate stitch structures and textures and retooled machinery to accommodate his elaborate ideas and proportions. As the originator of the bandage dress, which both smoothed and accentuated every inch of a woman's body, he inspired a million knock-offs and secured his place in fashion infamy.

Regarded as a "designer's designer," Alaia was universally respected among his peers and dressed everyone from Michelle Obama to Madonna. His celebration of the female form, his discipline and respect for craft are anathema in today's culture of disposable, fast-fashion and the industry mourns the loss of yet another irreplaceable visionary.

Fall 2007 Lookbook
Harper's Bazaar Korea March 2013
NY Times T Magazine February 2013
with Naomi Cambell
with Elle MacPherson photographed by Gilles Bensimon
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