“My obsession is to make women beautiful. When you create with that in mind, things can’t go out of fashion.” – Azzedine Alaïa
Azzedine Alaïa is an iconic couturier who has no doubt left a notorious impression on the fashion industry. When I heard about his solo exhibition, titled Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier at The Design Museum in London (which, in itself, is a worthwhile visit), I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see it.
Alaïa began his career in haute couture working at notable establishments such as Christian Dior and Guy Laroche before creating his own fashion house. As well as this, he put as much focus into his ready-to-wear collections: hand cutting patterns for every garment prototype himself, and it is this care and attention that translated into such high-quality, refined garments.
The exhibition itself is phenomenal – conceived and co-curated with Alaïa before his passing in November 2017 – it divides his garments across multiple eras into themes such as Exploring Volume and Black Silhoutettes. As soon as you walk into the space, you are immediately impacted by Sculptural Tension; it gives you the impression of grandeur and luxe which carries throughout the exhibition. The intricacy of each garment is incredible and when you see the sheer amount of detail and craftsmanship in person, you truly appreciate Alaïa’s talent. What’s impressive is also the detail in the showcasing of the garments themselves: even the dress forms and background screens are specific for the display.
Below is just a highlight of what I saw:
Wrapped Forms spans over decades and displays some of Alaïa’s most well-known creations. These slender dresses famously cling to the entire body using stretch fabric and debuted in 1986 under the category of the ‘Bandelette’ dress – inspired by bandaging. Despite this clinging, the clever combination of design and fabric choice allows the dress to maintain it’s fluidity and lustrous look. Their construction also requires precise cutting of each band of fabric and, in my opinion, look just as complex as the more structured and decorated garments.
The show is curated so carefully that each of these garments stands alone individually yet simultaneously holds visual impact when grouped with other garments under one theme. One of my favourites was the Spanish Accent collection and you can obviously see the cultural influence in Alaïa’s designs. He’s embroidered this trio of knit jacquard dresses with micro sequins to give them a sense of drama, energy and extravagance. The same drama continues in the Exploring Volume collection with exaggerated silhouettes and decadent embellishments.
The exhibition runs until 7th October 2018 and I’d highly recommend a visit as there is so much more to see other than what’s pictured here, including a photographed series of Alaïa’s work by Peter Lindbergh.