Sunday School: A for Azzedine Alaïa

Sunday School: A for Azzedine Alaïa

Sunday School: A for Azzedine Alaïa

To better appreciate fashion’s next-gen figures, study up on this curated dossier of trailblazing talents, from the living legends to the late-and-great leaders who laid the groundwork for today’s industry power players. Come back every Sunday for new lessons!

To better appreciate fashion’s next-gen figures, study up on this curated dossier of trailblazing talents, from the living legends to the late-and-great leaders who laid the groundwork for today’s industry power players. Come back every Sunday for new lessons!

 The inimitable Tunisia-born couture designer was revered for his sculptural designs that deftly showcased the body. Alaïa’s offerings peerlessly telegraph sexuality, celebrating rather than objectifying the female form. Having studied sculpture as a teenager, much of his inspiration was culled from his fine arts background. Considered by many to be the arbiter of the supermodel, he populated his catwalks with the biggest personalities long before talents like Gianni Versace were doing so. Alaïa also launched lifelong friend Naomi Campbell’s career when she was just 16. He was prescient in his unapologetic bucking of the traditional fashion system and its (ever-expanding) calendar of collections, eschewing seasonality in favor of timeless, meticulously crafted pieces. Although he passed away in Paris in November 2017, he’s left behind a truly legendary career and an immense void in the fashion industry.

See below to read his interview with Jean Paul Goude, from #V6.

After defining a decade in fashion, designer Azzedine Alaïa pulled a disappearing act. No more shows, no more interviews, collections only when he felt like it. But lately, it seems, Alaïa’s  been working overtime. He’s got a big retrospective show coming up this fall at the Guggenheim in New York, a brand new collection, not to mention some new additions to his family. Image-maker Jean Paul Goude, Alaïa’s frequent creative partner in crime, discovers that Azzedine isn’t just back – he’s back with a vengeance!

JEAN PAUL GOUDE How are you?

Azzedine Alaïa Fine. 

JPG Your health? 

AA Good. 

JPG The family? 

AA Good… aah… there she is my Noura, my princess... she’s my last born. And this is her sister Oum and their baby brother Pitchoume. The others are downstairs in the show room. 

JPG How many are there? 

AA Let me see… three cats and five dogs... we are exhausted!

JPG I bet! How do you find time to work? 

AA Are you kidding? That’s all I do. I get up around eight a.m., start working around nine, and I don’t stop until about three or four a.m..

JPG Wow that’s a lot. Why are you working so hard? Is it for your upcoming Guggenheim show? 

AA No, just for the collection. There’s so much to do. 

JPG You don’t look tired at all!

AA I’m holding up, though not sleeping makes me kind of cranky, some say downright evil. But what the hell? The work’s got to get done. I can’t please everybody!

JPG Your work is going to be featured in the Museum of Modern Art. Is the Guggenheim inviting you as a designer or a full-fledged contemporary artist? 

AA Well, I did go to art school. I even wanted to be a sculptor. 

JPG Would you say your dresses are sculptures?

AA Of course not. A sculpture is a sculpture, a painting is a painting, a dress is a dress and a… meal is a meal! Yet, taken to a very high level of creativity, a meal too can be a masterpiece and its cook a great artist. Anything unqieuly beautiful is art. 

JPG What about fashion has become a businessman‘s game? 

AA Fashion is a businessman‘s game. The world of business is interested in trends which is OK from a business point of view but I’m interested in style – the type of style that defines time. 

JPG Are you planning a big lavish show? 

AA No. Fashion shows are over. I might use one girl, maybe two. I’m concerned with the clothes. I want people to be able to see them up close, to touch them, see how they fit, see how they’re made. 

JPG No more cat walks? No more supermodels? 

AA Nope. I’m sick of supermodels, or I should say models who give modeling a bad name. I’m punishing them. JPG What do you mean? 

AA The ones who say, “Aïe-aïe-aïe, I haven’t been nice to  Azzedine. I haven’t called him in ages, and if I don’t he’s not going to use me in his show!” The opportunists – they’re the ones I’m punishing!

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