Azzedine Alaïa: Je Suis Couturier

Talk about an instant retrospective. Not even two months after his sudden death, the house of Azzedine Alaïa has staged a memorable exhibition of some of his most brilliant works.


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Entitled, Azzedine Alaïa: Je Suis Couturier, the show featuring just 41 looks confirms loud and clear his place as one of the all-time great architects of fashion.
 
“We wanted to render homage to Monsieur Alaïa, who tragically departed in November. Carla Sozzani called me pretty well immediately saying that we needed to stage this exhibition. Which I judged had to show the most timeless elements in his oeuvre. It’s a form of eternity that we could offer him,” the expo’s curator Olivier Saillard told FashionNetwork.com.
 
Chosen essentially in black and white, the show included pieces dating back to 1981, notably a mini cocktail, draped like some ancient Roman goddess from Pompeii; slinky 90s bandage dress columns and iconic leather lady centurion dresses from his final winter 2017 couture show. Presented in well-lit individual alcoves it is a nigh perfect introduction to Alaïa.
 
The Alaïa foundation now plan to stage expositions three times a year, made easier by the fact that Alaïa conserved pretty well all his own collections.  
 
“Azzedine also acquired many of the great classics of contemporary and ancient fashion: Madeleine Vionnet, Charles James, Balenciaga and Adrian. Which we plan to little by little show to the public,” revealed Saillard.
 
Presented in Alaïa’s long-time headquarters, a 19th century atelier with soaring wrought iron columns and glass roof. Seconds later the space was thrown into pandemonium when Naomi Campbell appeared with Farida Khelfa, a half dozen camera crew and the same number of mini influencers shooting live Instagrams even as they shot questions at the supermodel.
 
“It’s all very magical. Azzedine would have been very proud. And I must have worn half of these!” said a beaming Campbell.
 
According to Saillard, Alaïa was “the greatest private collector of fashion in the world. But it was a complex process as he never wanted to show anything. But I speak as the director of fashion museum for 20 years he would often acquire pieces that I wished to buy! Truly great works of our fashion patrimony. Now, we also have the question of how best to conserve them.”
 
Saillard first met Alaïa two decades ago when he was named director of the Museum de la Mode of Marseilles, and Alaïa was its president. Saillard eventually curated the retrospective on Alaïa in the Palais Galliera where was director in 2013.
 
“Everyone knew Alaïa took a long time do everything. So we started talking about that retrospective four years before it happened!” smiled Saillard.
 
“I’d like people to leave here thinking that fashion is not this great circus, and media frenzy and pomp that we consider it today. That fashion is about really knowing how to make clothes. We can say that only about certainly people. Alaïa and Yohji; and also of Vionnet and Balenciaga. They make fashion in the most nobles sense of sculptures for women’s’ bodies. That visitors admire robes that weigh practically nothing. Just whispers of mousseline of jersey. And for me that is art,” concluded Saillard.
 
His own favorite look is a 2003 dress in black mousseline with shades of red and Aegean blue underneath. Why? “It’s in the great tradition of 1930s robes. Alaïa eventually became the most Parisian of the couturiers. And the force of measuring himself against that great tradition made him become even greater that them. So this dress is a great abstraction of fashion history.”
 
Azzedine Alaïa: Je Suis Couturier
January 22 to June 10
18, rue de la Verrerie, 75004 Paris

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