Alaïa: The King of Cling

We Celebrate Sexy Fashion Guru Azzedine Alaïa

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BY: Zach Wampler

Azzedine Alaïa was often regarded as one of the most visionary and singular designers of his generation, and the generations to follow. Born in Tunisia in 1935, Alaïa took to design at an early age and was taught and fostered by the many women in his life, including sisters, aunts, and friends. Once he escaped to Paris in 1957, he quickly circulated between the great fashion houses of the time, and gained a healthy reputation amongst the glamorous haute couture clients.

Alaïa launched his own label by the end of the 1970s, and quickly won the hearts of women and critics everywhere. The designer became known for his body-conscious looks, which reminded everyone of his brilliance as a tailor, architect, and sculptor. However, he was modern: his designs lacked the restrictions of boning and corsetry of mid-century couture. Dresses clung and draped on the body while emphasizing and shaping the beautiful proportions of the female form. His women were sexy, liberated, and powerful. Alaïa created garments for Amazons.

Naomi Campbell, Lady Gaga, and a number of other political and social figures wore Alaïa. This range of clientele spoke to his love of women and the appeal of his view on fashion. His love of life was legendary, too, and Alaïa became a character in his own right. Extremely short in stature and only seen wearing simple black, he was known for cracking jokes, fibbing to the press, hosting incredible dinner parties in his Parisian kitchen, and his generous friendships with the members of his atelier and supermodels alike.

Keeping with his irreverent personality, he rarely presented a collection on any regular schedule. The clothes would be ready when he said they were ready. With designers now producing dozens of collections a year, this was a rare rebuke to an increasingly corporatized and stressful system of creation. Surprisingly, while going against this strong current, Alaïa received renewed attention in recent years. This included glowing reviews, career retrospectives, increased sales, and even being the subject of a documentary by renowned stylist, Joe McKenna, Joe’s Film.

For a man who cared little for timing of collections or punctuality with editors, he left us on Saturday at the peak of the party. Azzedine Alaïa will always be the man who designed to give women authority, comfort, unabashed sex appeal, and freedom.