Regular readers of this blog will know that I like to top off my fashion month with a visit to the Alaia atelier to see what the designer is doing and experience the fashion equivalent of a cleanse: Mr Alaia, after all, works exactly as he wants, shrugging off the demands of seasons and showing and trends. Ayn Rand would have loved him. Read more
That headline doesn’t say “take his time,” it says, “takes on time,” because that’s what Azzedine Alaia is doing: After years where he has gotten more and more passionate about what he sees as the single Great Problem of Fashion he’s decided to start a public debate on the subject. “Public” being the key word.
Forget art collaborations – they’re so yesterday. Mobile phones, ditto. These days, it seems, the must-have accessory for a luxury brand (not, note, a luxury consumer) is a gig creating costumes for the ballet. It’s the newest stamp of high-art approval. The latest to join the club: Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci. So what does it mean? Read more
Last night I made my end of fashion week pilgrimage to the atelier of Azzedine Alaïa to see what he has been working on. As usual, Mr Alaïa did not have a show during the Paris collections; he was too busy.
Indeed, he’s got quite a lot to say about the time pressures on designers, and other industry professionals who engage in the catwalk game, to the extent that he’s planning a symposium on the subject. Stay tuned.
Anyway, there’s a lot going on over there.
Starting with the fact he’s not just busy making clothes: he is making the costumes for a French ballet, to debut in April, as well as for a Los Angeles Opera production of the Marriage of Figaro, which will open mid-May. Oh, and he’s getting ready for a major exhibit of his work at the Musée Galliera in the autumn. Read more
This has been a good week for Richemont’s fashion brands. Tonight a Chloe retrospective opens at the Palais de Tokyo, and last weekend Lady Gaga gave a shout-out in front of millions of fans at the Stade de France to the designer Azzedine Alaia, calling him a genius. You know what that means: sales! Read more
Azzedine Alaia. Getty Images
Azzedine Alaia will open a flagship store in the heart of the French luxury retail world — ie Avenue Montaigne — next spring, the designer revealed recently with a certain amount of glee. Actually, it’s not exactly a flagship — it’s a five-floor hotel particulier with an interior courtyard/garden that will function as store/showroom/some offices — and it’s not exactly on Avenue Montaigne (it’s on the Rue de Marignan, off Avenue Montaigne past the corner where L’Avenue, the LVMH quasi-house canteen, sits). But it’s a big move for the designer who has preserved his independence from the fashion system partly by preserving his distance: resolutely remaining in his atelier/headquarters/apartment in the 4th arrondissement, and having the world come to him, on his terms. Read more
Azzedine Alaïa autumn/winter collection. Image by Vanessa Friedman.
What’s next? This question does not refer to the continuing rumours about which designer is going to which house (though as I left Paris the Marc-Jacobs-to-Dior gossip received a new lease of life thanks to the fantastic Louis Vuitton not-quite-a-retrospective at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, and a story in UK Vogue). It refers to clothes.
And though today, in my final review of the season, I wonder about the answer, last night, I saw a conclusion of sorts, so I thought I’d write this addendum.
Watching the Paris shows I was struck by two things:
- though I liked the clothes, mostly, that I’ve seen for the past few weeks, they are almost entirely focused on dressing for the now, as opposed to the future
- the relatively naked influence Azzedine Alaïa’s couture show in July had on the rest of the industry.
“We Are All Guilty for this Mess,” according to Suzy Menkes, fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune. In a heartfelt piece in her newspaper, my fellow Fashion Week traveller and friend took the fashion industry (herself included) to task for the very public soap opera that is the current round of designer switcheroos, in which bystanders gossip and place bets and tweet about real jobs and real people like they are characters in a reality television game.
It’s tough and honest and has people buzzing at the shows, and I recommend you read it, but I’m also not sure I entirely agree with it. I think she’s right about the situation, but doesn’t fully get to the cause. Read more
The Chambre Syndicale, French fashion’s governing body, has just announced Versace is returning to the couture schedule eight years after leaving it due to cutbacks. Is this good news? Or rather, is it enough good news?
In all the rumours floated about who would be the next big creative director at Dior, from names old (Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci, Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz, Vuitton’s Marc Jacobs) to new-ish (Haider Ackerman and Sarah Burton) one that hasn’t been mentioned but has, I discovered, actually been called, is perhaps the most surprising of all: Azzedine Alaia. I had heard whispers, but he just confirmed it.
To be fair, from a sheer talent point of view, this is not surprising: Mr Alaia is often voted by his peers one of the most influential designers ever (really ever; not just of the 20th century), and has been building a house of singular vision for decades.
He is also one of the last hands-on couturiers, beloved by his atelier. Part of the conundrum facing Dior is they need a designer who can work with the couture, and most youngsters, brought up on ready-to-wear, don’t have the know-how. Read more
I spent my last night in Paris watching Azzedine Alaia getting ready for his show, and it was a very thought-provoking way to end this whole hoo-ha of a season. Fitting, you could say (pun fully intended).
You could also say, “But wait! The shows are over! Why is he only getting ready now?” To which I would say: “That’s the point. He is only ready now – actually, he’s not quite ready now, but he will be soon – and he only shows when he is ready.”
And here’s the interesting thing: Mr Alaia’s business is growing by leaps and bounds. He’s taking over the enormous former Prada space at Barneys New York, he has a 120 sq metre space at Harrods already, he’s getting a bigger place at Harvey Nichols, opening corners in China, etc.
This is, I remind you, someone who no longer plays the fashion game at all: shows when the press has left Paris if that’s how it goes (buyers are still there; someone is around), delivers when it’s ready, and doesn’t do pre-collections. Plus, his work is priced at the highest end of the fashion spectrum. All of which has served to make him…more in demand. Read more
Though Nicholas Sarkozy, for obvious reasons, is generally regarded as the most fashion-forward French politician (there’s his wife, for one, and his close friendship with LVMH chieftain Bernard Arnault, who was a witness at the Bruni-Sarkozy wedding, not to mention his penchant for flashy watches), it turns out the French left is just as intertwined with the fashion world, although in a rather more discrete, long-term sort of way. Read more