I love Azzedine Alaïa. With a passion. While it may be a little dangerous to speak so fervently about a designer, this is only fashion after all, there is no doubt that for as long as I can remember Alaïa’s own rigorous design language and unconditional commitment to his art has captured my interest. I won’t make the mistake of presenting his career in some sort of chronological order. This would be entirely unsatisfying. And I’m also acutely aware that a blog post is too short to really give you the full measure of the man. No surprise, then, that this is just a few words based on personal experience.
Alaïa’s magic just gripped me from the start: the first time I saw my mother wear one of his audaciously modern dresses in the early 80s, looking radiant and womanly, growing up and invariably looking at his clothes with curiosity and enthusiasm, admiring his incredible integrity in a fashion industry under pressure to constantly “globalize” and experiment with high street collaborations, his ability to remain faithful to his principles. I see him as a talent that plays a central role in the history of fashion. I find it disconcerting and almost perverse that critics frequently overlook him. He is the unsung hero of couture. Undaunted by the stresses and burdens of the industry, he has taken a risk to produce something unique. Far removed from trends and “universal fashion”, which prescribes the import/export of an internationally adaptable kind of prêt à porter, Alaïa has continued to firmly believe in his ethics throughout his career. True, not everything has been a success and not everything stood the test of time; but, had it not been for his daring risk-taking and absolute control over his company the situation might have been different and fashion might have lost one of its greatest names.
You could think that working at his own pace with uninhibited abandon and staying independent might be detrimental to his ambition and success but this is no miscalculation on his part and he somehow manages to broaden his repertoire with beautiful, timeless and fresh pieces. This is testament to his talent and just proves that what other designers might consider limiting or restricting can actually bear fruit in some situations.
If, like me, you’re a fan of Azzedine Alaïa, I would strongly recommend reading this article by the great Cathy Horyn.