Naomi Campbell wearing Azzedine Alaia Tati Collection Spring Summer 1991 Courtesy of Ellen von Unwerth

Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier

Azzedine Alaïa never became a household fashion name. Visit the new exhibition of 60 Alaïa garments at the Design Museum (which he co-curated before he died last November) and you’ll realise his enormous influence on the fashion industry.  Alaïa began his career at Christian Dior and set up his own haute couture house in 1981 which fused cutting edge technology with 19th century techniques, quickly becoming the go-to designer for a role call of celebrities including Greta Garbo, Grace Jones and Tina Turner (more recent clients include Lady Gaga and Beyonce).

Tina Turner & Azzedine Alaia under the Eiffel Tower by Peter Lindbergh, 1989 © Peter Lindbergh (Courtesy Peter Lindbergh, Paris)

The dresses on show in this exhibition are simply shown on tall mannequins standing together in groups but the detail on them is extraordinary.  Alaïa originally studied to be a sculptor at the School of Fine Art in Tunis and his dresses drape and flatter the female body using perforated leather, chiffon and elastic (the latter for the ‘bandelette’ 1980s ‘bandage’ dresses inspired by Egyptian mummies) with great skill.  As Naomi Campbell once said, ‘No other dress can make a woman look and feel as good as an Alaïa dress because it cinches the body perfectly.’

White Bandelette Dress © Andrea&Valentina

An art collector, costume designer for ballet and opera and gallery owner, Alaïa was a cultural polymath but it is his consummate skill as a fashion innovator for which he will most be remembered and which this poignant exhibition is an elegant and fascinating reminder.

Alaïa ETE 1992 book, published by Assouline, with photos and text by Prosper Assouline on the occasion of Azzedine Alaïa’s 1992 Summer Collection ©Prosper Assouline for Alaïa: Livre de Collection, Assouline

Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier
Until 7 October 2018
The Design Museum 224 - 238 Kensington High Street, W8 6AG
Adult: £16, child (above 6): £8
— Francesca
9th May 2018