Shapely forms made from the finest materials, beautifully sculpted to a woman’s body. Felted wool; laser-cut leather; Mongolian fur. A huddle of supermodels in leopard print. A Paris studio with accompanying luxury apartments. Three dogs – Anouar, a Maltese given to him by Naomi Campbell; another Maltese named Waka Waka, and Didine, a St. Bernard. A Tunisian man, just over 5"2 in a trademark black mandarin jacket and trousers.
Since his label's launch in the 1980s, Azzedine Alaïa, has become one the most celebrated couturiers in the fashion industry. There are perhaps three things that are that mark Alaïa as a great: his iconic house codes, a dedication to craft and his unique participation in the fashion calendar, choosing to host smaller shows off the official Paris schedule and creating "garments that last" rather than those that vanish with the season. Aged 70, he is still involved in every aspect of his line and has worked with the same Italian factory for the past 30 years. “I like to stay safe, to believe in my traditional values. Also I need to see the materials and manufacturers I’m working with. I could not hand this job over to another person.”
Mr Alaïa was born in Sillana, Tunisia to parents who were wheat farmers and it was his twin sister who inspired his love of couture. He began his formal training at the École des Beaux-Arts in Tunis (where he lied about his age to gain entry) and focused on sculpture: a subject which has remained crucial to his approach to fashion design. "When I'm working on a garment, it has to flow over the body, in profile and in back view," he has since explained. He began his career at Christian Dior as a tailor before moving to Guy Laroche, and then Thierry Mugler. In the late 1970s, he opened his own atelier in his little rue de Bellechasse apartment and presented his first signature collection in 1979. It was in this tiny atelier that he privately dressed the world’s jet set from Marie-Hélène De Rothschild to Louise de Vilmorin (who would become a close friend) to the glamorous Greta Garbo, who used to come incognito to her fittings.
To celebrate Azzedine Alaïa's current major retrospective at Palais Galliera, AnOther commissioned artist Sarah Beeby to create an animation tracing the fantastic tale of Mr Azzendine Alaïa and his timeless body of work.
A film by Sarah Beeby
Sound Design by Louis Morand