On 26th of February in 1935 in Tunis, in a family of wheat farmers, a little boy with extraordinary talent was born. A boy who would change the world of fashion forever with his exquisite craft. That little boy grew up to be a man who danced on his own rhythm, saw no boundaries and knew that his art was valuable. That little boy grew up to be Azzedine Alaia.
It was his glamorous twin sister and a French lady who was a friend of his mother that made him fall in love with couture. Alaia lied about his age to enter the School of Fine Arts in Tunis, where he learned so much about the human body, proportions and sculpture. Deep inside he knew that he was never going to be an amazing sculptor, so he took destiny’s call and turned into fashion.
He started working as a dressmaker’s assistant. Later he moved to Paris where he worked for the team of masters like Christian Dior, Thierry Mugler and Guy Laroche. His individualism was shown even back then when he opened his own atelier in his tiny apartment in the late ’70s. Socialites and stars like Greta Garbo, Andree Putman, Grace Jones, Marie-Helene de Rothschild adored him.
But the wider public learned about Alaia in the late ’80s. Naomi Campbell (who calls him Papa) was among his first models and muses. Linda Evangelista when asked about what she loves about fashion, stated that “I love everything about fashion. I even love the fittings and watching it evolve from a pattern to a muslin to the final product. I used to stay with Azzedine Alaia until 4 in the morning letting him stick pins into me, because it was a dream.”
What makes Azzedine so unique is that he often went against trends, mainstream customers, marketing and basically everything that makes lots of money these days. He stayed true to himself, by not participating in Fashion Week, and showing his collections only when there really is something to show. According to him, it’s not natural to have so many shows in a year because clothes should not be that changeable. He saw fashion like it should be seen – as a marvelous form of art, which must not be rushed and in no way should be treated like something disposable. Azzedine was so dedicated to his prowess that he made his Ready-To-Wear samples like Haute Couture. He is the one who opened my eyes to see the huge difference between a fashion designer and a dress maker. He didn’t just sketch the clothes and accessories like most fashion designers do nowadays, Azzedine participated fully in every part of the process of making fashion. Always seen with his scissors and muslin patterns, he differed from most designers by carefully selecting his customers. Alaia didn’t care about being liked in the whole world, he wanted to be liked in his world. And that’s a lesson we could all adopt.
Known for his sincerity, hospitality and sweet nature, aside from his talent, Alaia sure will be missed. His death was announced on 18th November 2017. No one knows for sure who or if there’ll be his successor, but one thing is for certain – if anyone takes Alaia’s place, he will have to be outstanding, devoted artisan and a true couturier, like Azzedine always was.
Alaia showed the world the importance of a well tailored dress, the transformative power of a piece of garment, but most importantly he empowered women by using his art to tell them that it’s okay to look and feel appealing, to be sexual and desirable. His legacy will live on forever, and the world will be patiently waiting for someone like him, because in 1000 years, there can be only one AZZEDINE ALAIA!