Azzedine Alaïa, the Tunisian perfectionism

Azzedine Alaïa is a French-Tunisian fashion designer, head of Azzedine Alaïa couture house (owned by the Richemont company, as long as Chloé and Lancel).

He started learning couture through sculpture in his youth, back in Tunisia, where he graduated from the prestigious Tunis Ecole des Beaux-Arts (school of fine arts) at the age of 15. Thanks to his sister Hafida, a seamstress, he learnt how to sew. He practiced this new art by reproducing famous Dior and Balmain’s dresses for the women in his family, and even notable women in the Tunisoise society.

He then went to France in the late 50’s. His early life as an immigrant was not easy, as any other North African in Paris, as he arrived there at the same time as the war in Algeria. He often had to baby-sit kids in between sewing sessions in order to pay for his tiny room rent. He then found a job at Christian Dior’s, working under Yves Saint Laurent who was head of the house after its founder’s death. He only worked there, quickly fired after being told “You’re a foreigner”. But never giving up, he made a series of providential encounters that led him to create his own private client list.

Style of Arabia - Azzedine Alaia - Portrait

To learn the professional rules of sewing, he worked a couple of years for Guy Laroche with Thierry Mugler. It is the beginning of Azzedine Alaïa’s story as we know it. One of his guardian angels lent him money to open his first boutique, an apartment filled with sewing machines, from kitchen to the bathroom. All the famous women of Paris wore Alaïa, but only if they personally knew him and his atelier, as no one else but him sold his creations.

Only listening to his intuition, Alaïa created counter-trends by not following mainstream ready-to -wear rules. In the 80’s, while everyone created androgynous forms with large shoulder pads, he rather was in a mood for sexy and skinny clothes. The whole fashion press fell in love with his avant-gardisme, in spite of his great discretion and humility. Paradoxically, the rarer he is, the more famous he becomes. Praised all around the world, he became friends with the most distinguished models, amongst whom are Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell.

Azzedine Alaïa seldom draws, rather sculpting his creations directly on the models’ bodies. He cuts, sews, does and knows how to do everything from A to Z. Most importantly, he loves doing so.

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 20:  Model Kendall Jenner attends the "Youth"  Premiere during the 68th annual Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2015 in Cannes, France.  (Photo by Venturelli/WireImage)
CANNES, FRANCE – MAY 20: Model Kendall Jenner attends the “Youth” Premiere during the 68th annual Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2015 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Venturelli/WireImage)

Nowadays, Azzedine Alaïa’s client list is made of names such as Michelle Obama, Lady Gaga or Kendall Jenner, who was lately seen wearing an Alaïa cropped top on Cannes Film Festival, hustling all the established codes of a stilted uncomfortable red carpet wardrobe.

 Azzedine Alaïa is the most discreet of all couturiers. Maybe because he’s the last – Jean-Paul Goude

Just recently, Azzedine Alaia and Beauté Prestige International announced the signature of a License Agreement for the creation, manufacturing and worldwide distribution of perfumes and cosmetics under the Azzedine Alaïa brand. Rémy Gomez, CEO of Beauté Prestige International stated that he was delighted and honored that Mr. Alaia has entrusted them with the task of creating his perfume. His designs are a celebration of the Women figure, he continues. He is a sculptor, a virtuoso of the cut; his dresses are a “second skin” which possess an almost supernatural power to sublime the wearer.


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