Alaïa, Azzedine (1940-2017). French designer of Tunisian origin. Azzedine Alaïa was born on February 26, 1940 in Tunis, into a family of farmers. Alaïa left for Paris at the age of 17 with little money and lots of dreams. Moreover to earn a living, he started working as a babysitter.
His childhood in Tunis runs smoothly and leaves a happy memory in him, despite the fact that his mother was gone and his father worked a lot in the fields. It was his grandparents who took care of him. He often went to the cinema with his grandfather, with his grandmother he spent hours in the kitchen, preparing banquets for the numerous guests. Then there was his twin sister Hafida, a sweet girl who worked as a seamstress and who teaches him to hold needle and thread. His aunt was also an important and inspirational figure for Alaïa’s creativity. In fact Alaïa wore French style with a red coat with astrakhan lapels.
He became a great name in fashion in the 1980s, thanks to an unmistakable style, while remaining a tireless craftsman. His passion for sculpture contributes to the three-dimensional feeling of his dresses, which so often emphasize the back and the bottom. “They are the core of feminine seduction,” he likes to say.
There are many female figures who have marked the life of the great designer. The rigorous elegance of the sisters of Notre Dame de Sion to whom he gives the first drawing. The models of Dior and Balmain that he discovers on the pages of fashion magazines in the studio of Madame Pineau. Moreover a midwife in the neighborhood where the young man earns some money by putting pots of water to boil on the fire.
The kitchen as a creative environment
Only in 1981 Thierry Mugler managed to convince him to make the leap. Her atelier is so small that Azzedine has to show models on the street. In the meantime he meets Carla Sozzani, director of Vogue Italia, the “soeur italienne”, who will greatly influence his personal and working life. In 1979 Carla released a special piece on the tailor in Vogue and flies directly to him in Paris. To thank her as she deserves, Azzedine Alaïa wants to make her a dress. From that meeting an intense and devoted friendship will arise between the two, made up of mutual admiration and respect. In 1980, he presented his first collection. In 1982, a fashion show in the Bergdorf Goodman luxury department store in New York opened the doors to America and international success.
In 1985 he moved from rue de Bellechasse to an old youth hostel in the Marais district, restored by his friend the architect-designer Andrée Putman. In 1990 he “fell in love” with an ex-industrial workshop in rue de la Verrerie. He transformed it into an atelier with the help of the American artist Julian Schnabel.
Here he met a number of particularly interesting people, such as Farida Khelfa, his first model, collaborator and muse. Jean Paul Goude becomes his trusted photographer and introduces him to ex-girlfriend Grace Jones. It was she who accompanied Alaïa to the Opéra Garnier in 1985 to collect two fashion Oscars.
Azzedine Alaïa and Naomi Campbell
In 1987 Naomi Campbell parades for Alaïa, he is credited with having discovered the talent of the Black Venus. The stylist becomes the mentor and guide of the young model, just over fifteen. He takes care of her, takes her to live with him in his apartment. Additionally he teaches her the trade, bearing, elegance through films such as Women by Geirge Cukor and films by Josephine Baker. Naomi appears in the latest Haute Couture 2017-2018 collection, beautiful in a long black dress with a white coat with black motifs. But Naomi is not the only talent he finds. Indeed he deserves the credit for having launched models of the caliber of Linda Evangelista and Inès de la Frassange.
The body sculptor
Furthermore Azzedine won the nomination of “sculptor of the body”. He chooses to complete his clothes on customers so that they fit perfectly. He also collaborates with some low cost brands. Among these Les 3 Suisse, La Redoute, Tati, for which he creates the iconic checkered line, sold for a few francs at the time and now on sale for thousands of euros in Vintage stores.