A perfectionist who played by his own rules, Azzedine Alaïa passed away in November, leaving the industry in shock. Francesca Fearon looks at two exhibitions celebrating his life
A perfectionist who played by his own rules, Azzedine Alaia passed away suddenly in November. We look at two exhibitions celebrating his life
There’s a hushed, reverential silence as Parisians slowly wander around the displays of sculpted gowns, studying every stitch and detail as if in awe of the mastery. These 41 dresses present just a snapshot of Azzedine Alaïa’s work over 40 years, and are being showcased in a special exhibition at Alaïa’s atelier in Le Marais, the site of his last couture show in July 2017. The exhibition, which takes its title from one of Alaïa’s famous quotes, “I am not a designer, I am a couturier”, is one of two this year devoted to the Tunisian designer, who died unexpectedly of a heart attack last November, leaving the industry in shock. The second exhibition, Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier, will open at London’s Design Museum in May. This exhibit had already been in the works when the legendary designer passed away, so he was heavily involved in its planning. It will explore the career and creative process of this notorious perfectionist, who cut all his own patterns and was known to work on a single garment for years before sharing it with the world. It will showcase more than 60 examples of Alaïa’s works until October 7. The museum has decided to not change its approach, or replace it with a retrospective, but instead, to stay true to the designer’s vision for the exhibition, while adding some more biographical details and photography elements. “We want to give a sense of how a man like Azzedine Alaïa creates, because he stands apart from many fashion designers today,” explains Alice Black, codirector of the Design Museum. Alaïa stands as one of the most influential designers of his generation, famed for introducing the body-conscious silhouette. The Paris exhibition opened during haute couture week in January, giving the designer a presence during the collections, and will run until June 10. It has been curated by Olivier Saillard, the former director of Paris’s Palais Galliera, who worked closely with Alaïa to produce the first retrospective of his work in 2013 at the Galliera, so is familiar with the designer’s dresses. Tightly edited to black or white (with the exception of one red gown), each iconic dress is set out on individual, pearly-hued podiums lining the atelier – Saillard says he wanted the exhibition to look like a string of pearls. Devoid of any captions, you wander around the space with a leaflet featuring each dress and simply the year and season of the design, nothing more.