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Women's Fashion / Fashion Equations

Azzedine Alaïa A/W12

A mathematical guide to the key inspirations and references in designers' collections by Laura Bradley, illustrated by Tom Baxter

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For autumn/winter 2012, Azzedine Alaïa's collection brought to mind The Little Mermaid's Ursula, reptiles and monasteries...

Azzedine Alaïa works to his own agenda, choosing to stage his show in the intimate setting of his Marias headquarters, at the end of the official Paris fashion week schedule. Whilst other collections spread quickly across the internet, Alaïa's choose to share his latest designs with friends, buyers and a handful a press. A closer look at the collection certainly brings some interesting elements for an interesting fashion equation.

Who would have thought Alaïa would have made one think of the sinister sea witch Ursula in childhood Disney classic The Little Mermaid? Not only was the swishing bottom-half of a full length knitted gown not dissimilar to the sea-witches tentacles, also was the colour choice of black and lilac. Ursula is a part-octopus sea witch who "helps" unfortunate merfolk to achieve her own goals. Ursula frequently turns them into polyps and imprisons them. Her appearance is of an obese purple-skinned, white-haired female human with a facial mole, but from the waist down she has six black tentacles.

Throughout his career, Alaïa has used exotic skins in his collections: ponyskin handbags, stingray ballet pumps and leather laser-cut skirts. For A/W11, the collection was heavy with reptile inspirations including a striking patent leather croc-embossed curvy tailored double-breasted jacket.

The 60-look collection also had a distinctly monasterial feel. Executed in a dark, somber palette, pieces included high-neck jumpers and long, buttoned coats. Knitted black dresses with cap sleeves featured deepset red detail, reminiscent of stained glass windows. Religious iconography has also featured in recent seasons at Yves Saint Laurent (wimples for A/W10), Balenciaga (gothic prints for S/S12) and Versace (cross embellishments for A/W12.

Laura Bradley is the Commissioning Editor of AnOther and published her first series of Fashion Equations in May 2008. Tom Baxter is an illustrator currently living and working in London.

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