If there is one fashion designer who refuses to be à la mode, meaning creating Pre-Spring, Pre-Fall or Cruise collections it is Azzedine Alaïa, a genuine craftsman in the true meaning of the term craftsman as he always sews his hems himself, a he makes the drapings. A genuine craftsman who has never stopped creating and who rejects the idea that Fashion is about the number of collections one can make each year and as he is used to say if he has one good idea per year thanks God! Indeed, we can almost say that Alaïa is a kind of punk even though this term of punk is perhaps not accurate enough. He is a free man and this freedom can be found everywhere in his work and that's what makes it even more timeless and modern. And this modernity keeps on influencing a huge number of creators; Alaïa is copied even if the copy in that case is more than that, it must be taken as a tribute. His place is completely exclusive and unique in the Fashion world. His place is apart from the Fashion world (he is not even registered at the Fashion calendar and only cares about his clients), he has the place of a Master, a Master who never stops moving us and that's what the exhibition at the Musée Galliera is all about. This place from Alaïa's beginnings to nowadays is a place where his work is dedicated to glorify the woman's body, almost as a sculptor, a Master of the body. There is no surprise that after the end of the Fashion Week in September the jeune garde of French Fashion, Olivier Rousteing and the genius Riccardo Tisci went to this exhibition to pay tribute to him (and we were lucky enough to be here the day they came! We almost can't believe our eyes!)
Alaïa's creations may have invented the term body-conscious, an adjective standing at the ethos of his brand. If Madeleine Vionnet freed the woman's body by taking off the corsets at the beginning of the 20th century, Azzedine Alaïa has invented a feminine silhouette, the 80s silhouette. As Grace Coddington says in her autobiography (Grace: A Memoir published in 2012 by Chatto & Windus):" his clothes were flattering and sensual and made you look so curvy [...] such a small operation created things so beautifully [...] nothing was hidden away beneath embroidery or layers, they were just very feminine clothes contouring the body perfectly. You could see fashion turn a corner at that moment, and the eighties became defined by his look. I loved Azzedine's clothes and began wearing them exclusively". His clothes are all about the body first. Images of Grace Jones in James Bond, in the 80s or nowadays, Rihanna at the Grammys demonstrate that his style is timeless.
The Alaïa Woman is a kind of Femme Fatale, mysterious and sensual. There is something beyond the body-conscious and it can be seen in his work of the leather fabric and his use of eyelets displayed as a pattern. He also refers to exoticism to give his dresses something more by the use of raphia, a raw material he transcends by giving it a texture, a shape or through his tailcoat made of alligator leather, one of the hardest skins to work. We cannot even imagine how many hours they spent on this jacket! It is hard to say that Alaïa is couture because there is something provocative in his work and he is not into princess dresses. It is far beyond couture!
Azzedine Alaïa has chosen to work at his own pace compared to the frenzy world of fashion. He gives us another version of this "thing" we seem to know, a unique outlook of what Fashion can also be, an alternative, a way to uncompromise and to remain independent (a word that hardly exists in Fashion) which seems utopian (but feasible) in today's fashion where everybody wants his own share of the cake.