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Azzedine Alaïa ( , pronunciation: Aliya) is a Tunisian-born couturier and shoe designer, particularly successful since the 1980s.

Biography

Alaïa was born in Jemmalmarker, Tunisiamarker on 7 June 1940. His parents were wheat farmers but his glamorous twin sister inspired his love for couture. A French friend of his mother fed Alaïa's instinctive creativity with copies of Vogue. He lied about his age to get himself into the local École des Beaux-Arts in Tunis and began studying sculpture where he gained valuable insights into the human form.

After his graduation, Alaïa began working as a dressmaker's assistant. He soon began dressing private clients, and in 1957 he moved to Paris to work in fashion design. In Paris, he started to work at Christian Dior as a tailleur, but soon moved to work for Guy Laroche for two seasons, then for Thierry Mugler until he opened his first atelier in his little rue de Bellechase apartment the late 1970s. It is in this tiny atelier that for almost 20 years he dressed privately the world's jet set, from Marie-Hélène de Rothschild to Louise de Vilmorin (who would become a close friend) to Greta Garbo, who used to come incognito for her fittings.

He produced his first ready-to-wear collection in 1980 and moved to larger premises on rue du Parc-Royal in the Maraismarker district. Alaïa was voted Best Designer of the Year and Best collection of the Year at the Oscars de la Mode by the French Ministry of Culture in 1984 in a memorable event where Grace Jones carried him in her arms on stage!

In 1980, while designer Andrée Putman was walking down Madison Avenue with one of the first Alaïa leather coats, she was stopped by a Bergdorf Goodmanmarker buyer who asked her what she was wearing, which began a turn of events that lead to his designs being sold in New Yorkmarker and in Beverly Hillsmarker. By 1988, he had opened his own boutiques in these two cities and in Paris. His seductive, clinging clothes were a massive success and he was named by the media 'The King of Cling'. Devotees included both fashion-inclined celebrities and fashionistas: Grace Jones (wearing several of his creations in A View to a Kill), Tina Turner, Raquel Welch, Madonna, Brigitte Nielsen, Naomi Campbell (who is like a daughter to him), Stephanie Seymour, Carine Roitfeld and Carla Sozzani.

During the mid-1990s, following the death of his sister, Alaïa virtually vanished from the fashion scene, however, he continued to cater for a private clientele and enjoyed commercial success with his ready-to-wear lines. He presented his collections in his own space, in the heart of the Marais, where he brought his creative workshop, boutique and showroom together under one roof.

In 1996, he participated at the Biennale della Moda in Florence, where along with paintings by longtime friend Julian Schnabel, he exhibited an outstanding dress created for the event.

He then signed a partnership with the Prada group in 2000. Working with Prada saw him through a second impressive renaissance, and in July 2007, he successfully bought back his house and brand name from the Prada group, though his footwear and leather goods division continues to be developed and produced by the group.

Recognition

Alaïa was honored with a solo exhibition at the Groninger Museummarker in the Netherlandsmarker in 1998, which debuted at the Guggenheim Museummarker in New York in 2000 curated by Mark Wilson and Jim Cook.

His clothes are available in Barneys New York alongside Lanvin, Balenciaga, and Dolce & Gabbana, and his shoes are sold at Bergdorf Goodmanmarker. Carine Roitfeld was photographed during February 2007 Fashion Week in one of his coats, with the New York Times declaring that she was the only woman at any of the fall 2007 shows that "looked like the future." Victoria Beckham stated that Alaïa is her favourite designer and wore the designer's work, a gift from husband David Beckham, to two Academy Award parties in February 2007.

Alaïa was referenced in the mid-'90s teen hit Clueless starring Alicia Silverstone. When mugged at gunpoint, Silverstone's character protests kneeling in a parking lot in a famously clingy dress by the "totally important designer" by exclaiming, "This is an Alaïa!"

Michelle Obama wore a formal black knit sleveless dress with a ruffled skirt designed by Alaïa to the NATOmarker dinner with heads of state in Strasbourgmarker, France on 3 April 2009. Her choice of fashion by this French couturier broke the tradition of American First Ladies wearing styles by American designers to such events. French First Lady Carla Bruni also wore an Alaia jacket during the State Visit to Spain in 2009.

References

  1. (photograph by Valda Kalnina/EPA)



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