Over three years after the death of the exceptional Azzedine Alaïa, a new creative director has quietly been installed in the maison. It’s Pieter Mulier, a name unfamiliar to many – but a face that may be recognised. You’ll know Mulier if you watched Dior and I, the 2014 documentary by Frédéric Tcheng charting the first haute couture collection by Raf Simons for that house. Mulier was Simons’ right-hand man there – he was alongside him at Jil Sander before and at Calvin Klein afterwards, where he was global creative director to Simons’ chief creative officer, and where he took a bow alongside Simons at his Autumn/Winter 2017 debut. But, in Dior and I, you saw Mulier working – both with Simons, and with the Dior ateliers, giving a sense, perhaps, of why he’s perfect for Alaïa, a house as home, where the people are just as important as the clothes.
Of course, the clothes are important too. I reached out to congratulate Mulier over Instagram – my favoured sphere of communication. We often talk here, about clothes, especially old clothes. Mulier collects key pieces and in as such has a direct connection to Azzedine Alaïa, whose personal archive, currently being catalogued, is one of the most important private collections of fashion in modern times. It includes over 20,000 pieces of his own designs, of course, but also another 10,000 by the likes of Adrian, Balenciaga, Chanel, Dior … A,B,C,D. An alphabet of fashion. That link between the mindset of Mulier and Alaïa isn’t facile: it’s about cherishing clothes, about treasuring and respecting history and, I think, about creating pieces you want to last, to be bought, and worn, and ultimately then preserved. It’s fashion as life.
There are other links. Mulier studied design and architecture at Brussels Institut Saint-Luc – fitting, for a house whose founder often labelled himself a bâtisseur, or builder, rather than a designer. Alaïa himself, incidentally, also began his career in couture at Dior in 1957 (although he only lasted five days, due to his Tunisian background and the recent outbreak of the Algerian war). Alaïa and Mulier’s approaches are undoubtedly united by a love of construction, craft, the manipulation of fabrics to achieve certain effects. “Pieter stands out with remarkable technical talent and devotion to the craft, a sharp eye for construction and a sense of timeless beauty that is deeply ingrained in the creative approach of our Maison,” said Myriam Serrano, Alaïa’s CEO since 2019, in a press statement. “He combines these qualities with keen intellect, true generosity and unwavering humanity, which fills me with the greatest confidence in his creative leadership and innovative powers.” “It is an absolute dream to join this prestigious maison,” added Mulier. “Its beautiful ateliers and its talented team.”
Back to people: the deep respect Mulier has for the premieres and petit mains of the ateliers, the life-blood of fashion, was evident in Dior and I. There was something infectious in his evident glee at working with master craftspeople – Dior’s are superb. Alaïa’s are, too: many came from the ateliers of Yves Saint Laurent when that house closed in 2002, carrying with them years of expertise. They are renowned as being some of the finest hands in Parisian couture. Which means, pretty much, they’re the best of the best. Monsieur Alaïa’s last collection was a formidable couture tour de force in July 2017, where chiffon became as tough as steel and leather as supple as silk in a masterwork of defiance – not only of the rules of fashion, mixing haute couture and ready-to-wear, but of the laws of physics as a whole. The ateliers have been guided by Alaïa’s design archives since his death, creating new work by reinterpreting past styles, and also reissuing key pieces stitch for stitch. Mulier, however, will be proposing something new – his first collection, for Spring/Summer 2022. He’s started work immediately.