PLEA­SURES OF THE FLESH It’s taken 35 years for fash­ion icon Azze­dine Alaïa to launch his de­but fra­grance, which draws on his fa­mously body-con­scious aes­thetic. Is it worth the wait? Eu­ge­nie Kelly heads to Paris to find out.

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - The Beauty -

De­spite the leg­endary din­ner par­ties that have gone down in French fash­ion his­tory at the ad­dress printed on my in­vi­ta­tion, my Parisian taxi driver can’t pin­point which en­trance be­longs to Azze­dine Alaïa’s 17th­cen­tury Marais head­quar­ters. Un­like at a Chanel, Dior or Ba­len­ci­aga bou­tique, there’s no suited-up se­cu­rity man­ning the door, no se­ri­ous sig­nage – not even win­dow dis­plays. Just an unas­sum­ing stone façade with an im­pres­sive red door the size of a small truck and a buzzer to an­nounce clients. We cast our glance up­wards, and there – above said door – is the only in­di­ca­tor we’re at the right place. The name etched ever so sub­tly in stone: ALAÏA.

The 75-year-old Tu­nisian-born de­signer has been part of fash­ion mythol­ogy ever since his body-con dresses de­fined the aes­thetic of Paris in the ’80s, yet he re­mains an enigma. As Cher Horowitz (Ali­cia Sil­ver­stone) whines in the 1995 clas­sic Clue­less when a mug­ger com­mands her to lie on the pave­ment in her dress: “This is an Alaïa ... It’s, like, a to­tally im­por­tant de­signer.”

Tonight marks the launch of Alaïa Paris, his long-awaited fra­grance de­but, with an in­ti­mate din­ner party at his home: a con­verted ware­house, the heart of which is one of his two stand­alone bou­tiques. (The se­cond is his flag­ship store lo­cated in an 18th-cen­tury man­sion just off Av­enue Mon­taigne, re­plete with Marc New­son fur­nish­ings; a jaw-drop­ping Kris Ruhs chan­de­lier of brushed steel gar­lands de­scend­ing through four storeys of mar­ble stair­case; and a lush ver­ti­cal gar­den by Pa­trick Blanc.) Up­stairs is his de­sign ate­lier and work­shop; a vast apart­ment; and his ho­tel, 3 Rooms, self­con­tained suites that are a study in un­der­stated per­fec­tion.

At the back of the cathe­dral-like ground-floor store, where his cov­eted stretch-knit dresses hang on Ju­lian Schn­abelde­signed racks, is an in­dus­trial-style kitchen. It’s here the diminu­tive (he’s just over 157cm tall) and no­to­ri­ously shy de­signer, wear­ing his trade­mark black Mao suit, sits at the head of a long com­mu­nal ta­ble, pro­tec­tively hemmed in by a French mag­a­zine fash­ion di­rec­tor and the Span­ish ac­tor and Pedro Almod­ó­var muse Rossy de Palma. A few chairs away sits Carla Soz­zani, his long-time friend and style con­sul­tant and the founder of re­tailer 10 Corso Como.

His guests – a small gath­er­ing of in­ter­na­tional beauty jour­nal­ists – wait pa­tiently for him to work the room, but he’s in no rush. This per­fume has taken more than two years to reach fruition: what’s an­other hour? Clearly, this is a man who marches to the beat of his own drum.

Be­tween cour­ses, he pulls up a chair next to me and seems ready to talk. To be brash, a fra­grance can prove a fash­ion de­signer’s cash cow, so why launch a per­fume now? “In life, you mustn’t rush things,” he says, shak­ing his head. “I only rush things that I can do well straight away. If I do a col­lec­tion that’s not great – Okay, I get over it and do an­other one. But with per­fume ... no. You mustn’t get a per­fume

Azze­dine Alaïa with a model in one of his de­signs, pho­tographed

by Pa­trick De­marche­lier

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