Having been a Lycra-and-leather-clad fashion student in the 1980s, I’ve always had a fondness for Azzedine Alaia’s work. Oh those joyful black and white images of supermodels wearing his figure-hugging designs, always so sexy and cool. A new exhibition Azzedine Alaia: The Couturier opens at the Design Museum today. And it’s spectacular. There’s such a wonderful sense of space and calm in this lovely big, open plan room. Beautifully curated Alaia dresses stand in front of screens designed by Marc Newson, Kris Ruhs and other creatives, turning fashion displays into magnificent works of art. Curator Mark Wilson collaborated with Azzedine Alaia for over-22-years, across six exhibitions, before the designer’s death, last year. Wilson told me that, ‘90% of this was what we discussed, we planned the show last summer, it had to be what he wanted.’
Azzedine Alaia: The Couturier is the first major exhibition of the designer’s iconic work in the UK. Over 60 outfits – zipped, perforated leather; stretch, bandage dresses – span Alaia’s career from the 1980s (when he was nicknamed the King of Cling), through to garments from his final 2017 collection.
The dresses have been specifically designed to fit the elongated mannequins, to striking visual effect. It’s no surprise to find that Alaia trained as a sculptor; and this is such a wonderful opportunity to look closely at his craftsmanship, the detail, the draping, the stitching, the panelling…
I got quite excited by the gorgeous, draped jersey Grace Jones dress (worn in the Bond movie A View to a Kill); and there are other instantly recognisable outfits worn by Naomi Campbell, Tina Turner and more.
Even more excited when I spotted Carla Sozzani a close friend and muse of the designer at the press preview; I overheard her telling another journalist, ‘Sometimes I look at the clothes and it’s like I’ve never seen them before – it’s because of the craftsmanship, the details.’
In an interview with Italian Vogue, Sozzani said, ‘He had the image of a very strong woman in his mind, a strong silhouette that you can’t mistake. He was like an architect, and his work was like a form of sculpture. And he did everything himself. Every pattern, every sleeve, absolutely everything was physically made by Azzedine. And this was his form of art, the way he expressed himself through clothes. Actually the garments speak for themselves, because they’re genuine masterpieces.’
Read the full Italian Vogue feature HERE.
Azzedine Alaia: The Couturier is on at the Design Museum until 7 October 2018.