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The allure of Azzedine Alaïa

The allure of
Azzedine Alaïa

A designer that can be adored by generations of women over a period of more than 40 years and still deliver timely, beautifully crafted clothes is a sure sign of genius. The Algerian-born designer and artistic maverick Azzedine Alaïa is a rare unicorn in the fickle, volatile business of fashion. His architectural designs, exquisitely crafted from the finest fabrics, and body-contouring knits are a paean to the woman goddess – respectful, sensual and edifying to wear. His creations deserve a treasured position in our wardrobes: they are keepers.

Words by Harriet Quick

It’s the reason why Alaïa has amassed a steadfast following of beauties, artists, intellectuals, fellow designers and architects including Dior’s Victoire de Castellane, film director Sofia Coppola, model Naomi Campbell and stylists Katie Grand and Charlotte Stockdale.

“The joy of Alaïa is in the enormous amount of work he puts into every detail, the endless minute tweaks to the toiles and fit which make his designs effortless to wear,” says Stockdale, who was married to designer Marc Newson in a floating Alaïa silk voile gown at her family home in Hampshire, changing to a white lace sculpted pannier hipped short dress for dancing.

“His beautifully researched fabrics and talent in matching the fabric with the shape of garment are also what make his clothes so wonderful. The price is infinitely reflected in how often you can wear and dry-clean his clothes with seemingly no bad effect on the cloth or shape, due to the quality. This is priceless for those of us that re-wear his dresses constantly and become emotionally attached to the knowledge that, in a last-minute wardrobe decision, those Alaïa dresses always work. I look forward to passing my collection of dresses onto my daughters,” Stockdale says.

Alaïa’s uncompromising attitude to design and his quest for perfection are echoed throughout his studio. Alaïa does not partake in the bi-annual catwalk season showcase but shows his collections from his atelier in the Marais according to his own timetable and to guests he personally invites. One might find Coppola next to Donatella Versace alongside Carla Bruni and Paris nightclub entrepreneur André Saraiva. At the presentation of his eponymous perfume that launches this season, dancer Blanca Li performed and Alaïa says it was inspired by “the smell of cold water falling on hot chalk.”

The allure of Azzedine Alaïa

Alaïa, who started making dresses in Tunis for society women when he was just 16, is now 76, and is so physically fit he bounces out of bed at 8am to attend fittings. Habitually dressed in a collarless black suit and pumps, he frequently hosts salon dinners and lunches, surrounding himself with the brightest minds of a generation. On Saturdays he does field work – surveying Paris street life and meeting customers in store. The Alaïa universe is wide reaching and is rich in social and cultural capital. He has an extensive collection of art, fashion and books including a Coptic head that he bought on loan as a penniless émigré in Paris. He is also fascinated by technology. Apple launched its watch to the style public at Alaïa’s atelier situated on the Rue de Moussy.

Like the designer himself, Alaïa’s serpentine dresses, skater skirts that burst out like flowers, Perfecto jackets, Swiss lace shirts, riveted and studded exotic heels and pretty laser-cut leather bags have staying power. Nothing is extraneous, the proportions are timeless and the way his clothes move and skim and slim the body is feminine and effortless. Because of limited production and distribution, his designs remain exclusive.

One always feels dynamic and appropriate wearing Alaïa. If other guests might be wearing it too, rather than feel perturbed, one senses the camaraderie of like minds complicit in the appreciation of a true master.

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2015-07-08 00:14:00.0