Merci monsieur Alaïa

A week ago, Azzedine Alaïa passed away at the age of 77, letting us orphan to him who may have been the last of the “grands couturiers”, rather sewing the clothes directly on the mannequins than drawing them beforehand.

Having followed a training as “les beaux arts”, Azzedine Alaïa, molded his clothes like sculptures to enhance the beauty of women’s bodies. According to him, all his inspiration came for his love of “les femmes”.

A strong independent character, he answered only a few privileged journalists, repeatedly  refusing to be the head of design of any couture house, selling his gorgeous dress next to his Marais atelier.

Never following trends, he said that you could not tell when his clothes were made, a proof they were here to last.

From his debuts to the eighties to nowadays, Azzedine Alaia constructed his clothes on a few staples that make his work so iconic.

  • Bodycon

Structured bodycon clothes are the best way to underline the curves or the women’s bodies Alaïa loved so much.

Bodycon clothes have been in all his collections since his debuts in the 1980’s. At a time when the rage was all about oversize shoulders of powerwomen, he molded his clothes like corsets.

His “bandage dresses”, (also an iconic piece of another of the recently passed away Hervé Léger), are now amongst fashions staples, being found at both luxury shops and high end stores.

  • Soft pleats

The works on fabrics is central in the work of Alaïa. His clothes were both structured and adaptable to the body in the sense that their structured appeared when worn on the body.

Over the years, he created quantity of pleating technics, often applied on the lower body, to create volume while remaining soft and easy to wear.

Flats or opened pleats, minimal or dramatic flounced, the creativity of Alaïa was endless to create volume in new ways.

  • Volumes

Whether created by soft or rigid fabrics, Alaïa’s designs are a balance between molding and accentuating the curves with cleverly placed adds of volumes.

Usually the volume is located on the hips, accentuating the hips and behind of the wearer in the fashion of the “New look”.

The designs of Alaïa all tend to emphasize the hourglass shape of women, underlining the contrasts between a thin waist and wide hips while other designers where looking for unusual silhouettes, he always remained true to “l’éternel féminin”.

This love of a glorious body, never putting a fashion statement behind behind the embellishment of a women is one of the reason that have made him a favorite amongst movie stars all around the world even though he never invested in marketing nor advertising.

  • Plain colors

Watching Alaïa’s design over more than 30 years, reveals his deliberate choice of a limited palette of plain colors. His favorites being black, white and red.

Those set the focus on the shape and texture of the dress as well as on the body of woman wearing it.

You may find a floral print or a different color here and there, but those remain anecdotic in Alaïa’s work.

  • Textures

Heavy jersey pleats and flounces, stretchy bandages, rigid belts and corsets and flowy transparent silks are some of the many textures favorited by Alaïa.

The choice of the texture was very important as it both molded the shape of the clothing and created visual contrast on an otherwise plain colored outfit.

Transparency next to opacity, a thick leather on a flowy silk or architectural pleats creating a print like effect.

  • Waist definition

Alaïa was obsessed by the contrast between a tiny waist and wide hips and it it almost impossible to find one of his creations where the waist isn’t defined.

According to him, his cinched dresses made every woman look gorgeous no matter her size.

  • Cutouts

Alaïa’s creation may be very revealing. The breasts, the back, and the legs often being the stars of the outfit.

Sometimes, more unexpected bits of skin may viewable by skillfully placed holes: on the waist, on the back, on the tights… Always in a graphic and elegant manner.

  • Prêt à couture

If you had to quote one iconic piece of Alaïa, it would be his skater dress which gathered all the above stated style staples of Alaïa. A waist cinched dress, bodycon on the top with a pleat created volume on the bottom.

Nowadays, this dress style can has been copied more time that you can count, having reached the status of timeless style icon.

Alors, merci monsieur Alaïa

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