Fashion pays tribute to the eternal King of Cling Azzedine Alaïa

“The designer best known for the figure-enhancing designs he has created for some of world’s more exceptional women, including Greta Garbo, Grace Jones and Michelle Obama has died” wrote NYT’s Guy Trebay on Azzedine Alaïa’s passing.

The sculptor of fashion Alaïa was born in Tunis, Tunisia, on 26 February 1940. “His parents were wheat farmers, but his glamorous twin sister inspired his love for couture. A French friend of his mother fed Alaïa’s instinctive creativity with copies of Vogue. He lied about his age to get himself into the local École des Beaux-Arts in Tunis, where he gained valuable insights into the human form and began studying sculpture. After his graduation, Alaïa began working as a dressmaker’s assistant. He soon began dressing private clients, and in 1957 he moved to Paris to work in fashion design. In Paris, he started to work at Christian Dior as a tailleur, but had to leave five days later as the Algerian war broke out, soon moved to work for Guy Laroche for two seasons, then for Thierry Mugler until he opened his first atelier in his little rue de Bellechasse apartment the late 1970s. It is in this tiny atelier that for almost 20 years he privately dressed members of the world’s jet set, from Marie-Hélène de Rothschild to Louise de Vilmorin (who would become a close friend) to Greta Garbo, who used to come incognito for her fittings.

He 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 Jamaican singer Grace Jones carried him in her arms on stage.

His career skyrocketed when two of the most powerful fashion editors of the time, Melka Tréanton of Depeche Mode and Nicole Crassat of French Elle, supported him in their editorials.By 1988 he had opened his own boutiques in New York, Beverly Hills and Paris. His seductive, clinging clothes were a massive success and he was named by the media ‘The King of Cling’.

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, Stephanie Seymour, Tatiana Sorokko, Shakira, Franca Sozzani, Isabelle Aubin, Carine Roitfeld, and Carla Sozzani.

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.

In 1996 he participated at the Biennale della Moda in Florence, where along with paintings by longtime friend Julian Schnabel, he exhibited an outstanding dress created for the event. Schnabel-designed furniture, as well as his large-scale canvases, still decorate Alaïa’s boutique in Paris.

He then signed a partnership with the Prada group in 2000. Working with Prada saw him through a second impressive renaissance, and in July 2007, he successfully bought back his house and brand name from the Prada group, though his footwear and leather goods division continues to be developed and produced by the group. In 2007 the Richemont group, which owns Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, took a stake in his fashion house but he still does not show during the collections.

However, Alaïa still refused the marketing-driven logic of luxury conglomerates, continuing to focus on clothes rather than “it-bags”. Alaïa is revered for his independence and passion for discreet luxury. Catherine Lardeur, the former editor-in-chief of French Marie Claire in the 1980s, who also helped to launch Jean-Paul Gaultier’s career, 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. Alaïa 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.”

Alaïa was multi-honored with a solo exhibition at the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands in 1998, which debuted at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2000 and curated by Mark Wilson and Jim Cook. Carine Roitfeld was photographed during February 2007 Fashion Week in one of his coats, with the New York Times declaring that she was the only woman at any of the fall 2007 shows that “looked like the future.”

The controversial iconic designer was named Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur by the French government in 2008.

During an interview with The GROUND Social & Magazine (formerly known as Virgine), Alaïa slammed both Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld. Alaïa, then 71 and based in Paris, said of Chanel creative director Lagerfeld, “I don’t like his fashion, his spirit, his attitude. It’s too much caricature. Karl Lagerfeld never touched a pair of scissors in his life.” Alaïa also lashed out at the Vogue editor-in-chief: “She runs the business very well, but not the fashion part. When I see how she is dressed, I don’t believe in her tastes one second….Anyway, who will remember Anna Wintour in the history of fashion? No one.”

In the event of the passing of the King of Cling the Tunisian born master of fashion Azzedine Alaïa the world of fashion mourns this iconic designer’s death.

@newyorktimesfashion “Fashion gets its power and unanswerable logic from the female body, and … Azzedine Alaïa is its undisputed master,” wrote Cathy Horyn in 2010. Of his most recent couture collection, the first to be shown in six years, Vanessa Friedman wrote, “For Mr. Alaïa, each stitch, every motile moment, has to have an integral (as opposed to decorative) reason for being. These clothes don’t advertise their power; they project it inward, so the aura of confidence attaches to the person, not the outfit. It’s a gossamer distinction, but an important one.”

@voguemagazine “The iconoclastic couturier, has passed away in Paris. When other designers were asked about their icon, the answer more often than not was the French-Tunisian King of Cling. Tap the link in our bio for more on Alaïa’s life and love of design. Photographed by @ArthurElgort, Vogue, February 1986.”

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@voguehommes “If there was one designer in fashion who won unanimous respect and admiration, it was Azzedine Alaïa. As news of his death breaks, here he is pictured with a few of his long-time friends”.

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@032c “WE SALUTE #azzedinealaia. REST IN PARADISE!

032c: What have you learned today?

ALAÏA: The day is not over yet. But I promise you I learn something new every day. And I want to try to keep it that way, until the day I die. Even in designing, there are so many things I still have to learn. I’ve been trying to manipulate clothes for thirty years, but I know I can still get better. Sometimes I redo one thing five, six times. I am always in doubt; I am never sure of myself. Even when you tell me I’m an influential designer – I don’t see myself like that. So I don’t like decorations. You know Sarkozy offered me the Légion d’honneur medal? 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. My dress on a woman – that’s a beautiful decoration. (From the „AZZEDINE ALAÏA loves Animals & Women“ Feature in #032c Summer 2011 @jinakhayyer)”

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@inesdelafressangeofficial “Bye Maestro. Sadness”.

@peter_dundas “Adieu Mr. Alaia”

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@edward_enninful “Azzedine Alaïa was a true visionary, and a remarkable man. He will be deeply missed by all of those who knew and loved him, as well as by the women around the world who wore his clothes. The generosity of his spirit and genius of his designs will never be forgotten. R.I.P”.

Alaïa died on 18 November 2017, it was announced Alaia had died in Paris. He was 77.