March 10, 2017


All hail Paris-based designer Azzedine Alaïa. This Tunisian-born fashion pioneer has continually wowed fashion editors and celebrities alike, delivering delicious designs season after season. This season was no exception, with a series of airy tennis inspired dresses, a subtle flared silhouette and that same fanatical attention to detail.

But unlike his contemporaries who are constantly under pressure to deliver on a tight deadline, Alaïa’s show this season, and every other season for that matter takes place outside of the fashion week schedule. Buckling against the trend, it’s no secret that his shows are still well-attended by fashion insiders and fans alike. What is the key to his success then?

Maybe it has to do with his intimate understanding of the human body, as shown by his study of sculpture at the local École des Beaux-Arts in Tunis, which allows him to truly understand the human anatomy. Alaïa’s technical understanding of the human body probably explains why his couture pieces resemble soft sculptures. It is why his body-con pieces have earned him the title “King of cling”.


Armed with this unique and three-dimensional perspective, but also crestfallen with the realisation that he would never become a great sculptor, Alaïa decided to pursue a different profession. And as fate would have it, along with an insatiable appetite for Vogue Magazine, he decided to dress bodies instead of creating them, and dove head-first into fashion.

First moving to Paris in 1957, he worked for designers such as Guy Laroche and Thierry Mugler before moving into his own atelier in the late 1970s. He later released his first ready-to-wear collection in 1980 to great acclaim. And as they say of great journeys, the rest is history. Not bad, one might think, for someone born to humble Tunisian wheat farmers in 1939.

The Alaïa woman can don many personas. She can transform into the sexy, serpentine villainess, the fearless armour-clad warrior and the alluring seductress. Yet what unites these different characters together is the understanding and appreciation of the power that the female possesses. It’s no wonder the designer has a gaggle of A-listers keen to wear his pieces, including Naomi Campbell, Carine Roitfeld and Madonna.

All these personas were on display in an unprecedented exhibition that charted his entire 34 year career in Paris. Alaïa showcased 65 dresses as part of a retrospective at Villa Borghese in 2015. Sitting next to the masterpieces of Carvaggio, Titian and Veronese within the venue, his pieces blended seamlessly with the majestic surrounding.

A creation by Tunisian-born, Paris-based couturier Azzedine Alaia is displayed during the press preview of the exhibition " Azzedine Alaia's soft sculpture" at the Galleria Borghese in Rome on July 10, 2015. The exhibition will run from July 11 to October 25, 2015. Visitors can see Alaia's work displayed in the middle of the permanent collection of scluptures and furnitures of the Villa Borghese. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS = RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE, MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION, TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION =
Photo: Gabriel Bouys

Complementing these dresses is Alaïa’s newest laser-cut leather accessories, which are now available at On Pedder’s New World Tower flagship store. They combine cutting-edge technology with an old-world love for craftsmanship.

This season, the patterns came through with studious repetition, as triangles, circles and petal-shape incisions were made to create intricate designs. The result is visually compelling and dynamic, both a striking statement piece and an accessory to the elegant, modern day woman.

By Daniel Kong

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