ALAÏA AVANT ALAÏA | ITSLIQUID GROUP

ALAÏA AVANT ALAÏA

Fashion | March 7, 2022 |

alaia
Image courtesy of Fondation Azzadine Alaïa | © Stéphane Aït Ouarab

Alaïa avant Alaïa – La genèse d’un style
Fondation Azzedine Alaïa, Paris
January 28 – October 24, 2022

Alaïa avant Alaïa is an unprecedented and original exhibition, conceived and produced by the Foundation created by the designer some years before his death. Through numerous archive documents, photographs, and drawings, the majority of which have never been displayed to the public, the exhibition analyses the formative years between the 1950s, just before the budding couturier would leave Tunis and move to Paris, to the early 1980s and the emergence of the Alaïa phenomenon. A rigorous selection of dresses and creations from the beginning of his career, a selection of designs that revealed to the public something far beyond a singular style, a founding body of work dating from the late 1970s dialogues with timeless clothes, truly an intimate map of his eternal sources of inspiration.

alaia
Image courtesy of Fondation Azzadine Alaïa | © Stéphane Aït Ouarab

Alaïa avant Alaïa” brings to light a portrait of the talented couturier, modest on the subject of his younger years, a twenty-year-long period throughout which the world would be his school, and women his greatest teachers. Whilst others of his generation developed their design skills within the walls of a school, or in the workrooms and studios of existing fashion houses, Azzedine Alaïa was perfecting his technique, a technique that would become unparalleled over the course of his encounters with the growing circle of women that surrounded him. They were his protectors, supporters, select clients, they would become paths of inspiration for his entire body of work.

alaia
Image courtesy of Fondation Azzadine Alaïa | © Stéphane Aït Ouarab

During these three edifying decades, veritable underground archeology of his ambitions, Azzedine Alaïa met many important figures who would remain faithful to him for the rest of his life. Such encounters are favored only by fate when talent and friendship are combined. They are also the result of two journeys that coincide, encouraged by the exchange and development of art in all its forms. To name but a few who belonged to this secret and benevolent assembly, Hafida, his sister, for whom he used to do some small sewing jobs whilst at school in Tunis, his lifelong friend Latifa Ben Abdallah, Madame Pinault, the midwife that he used to assist and who encouraged him in the vocation of sculpture than that of couturier before his move to Paris in 1956.

alaia
Image courtesy of Fondation Azzadine Alaïa | © Jean-Pierre Ronzel

With the advice and support of one of the great figures of female emancipation in Tunisia, Habiba Menchari, he met up there with her daughter, Leila, who worked as a model for Guy Laroche, but who possessed a powerful artistic talent which she would soon employ in the orchestration of the ephemeral for Hermès. Simone Zehrfuss, the wife of the great architect, and the Countess Nicole de Blégiers in whose home he lived for some time, also participated in the emancipation of the aesthetic eye of the young Azzedine, opening up to him the world of the arts of the time.

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Image courtesy of Fondation Azzadine Alaïa

In 1959, he met Christoph von Weyhe. Together they explored the capital and its museums. The two young men, budding couturier, and painter respectively, would accompany one another in their artistic paths. At the time, Azzedine Alaïa was the couturier working from his one-room apartment and whose unique talents were a secret shared and maintained by a select few, to be protected from adulteration that an excess of adherents might cause. It is of little consequence that his time at Dior lasted but a few days, his training would be gracefully administered by these exclusive women who still dictated the trends and the fashions of Paris.

alaia
Image courtesy of Fondation Azzadine Alaïa

To his bedside couture atelier, the greatest names came rushing. For Greta Garbo, he made oversized masculine coats in which she could wrap herself in anonymity. Arletty was a devoted and unconditional fan. The two met through a friend, the hairdresser Federic Somigli, and she became the favorite person in the pantheon of Alaïa’s inspirations. It is from here that he learned the most about the irreverent chic that only Parisian women can nonchalantly pre-empt. His famous zip dresses are owed very much to her influence. His close relationship with the literary figure Louise de Vilmorin invited him into artistic circles and guided him in the ways of high society. He would be her mirror. She became his model of influence, and throughout his life, he never ceased to recall her importance.

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Image courtesy of Fondation Azzadine Alaïa | © Ilvo Gallo

To this concert of women, other noteworthy voices brought their harmony, for example, Bettina, his great longtime friend, or Rosemarie Le Quellec, Lison Bonfils, Claude Brouet, Nicole Crassat, Dominique Miceli, Melka Tréanton, Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele, and Carla Sozzani, all central figures in the orchestration and the development of Azzedine Alaïa’s beginnings in fashion and in their unwavering friendship. In addition to the growing number of client orders which accumulated daily at rue de Bellechasse, Azzedine was constantly experimenting, barely sleeping, always working, and already receiving all of Paris for meals in his open kitchen, recalls Rosine Baldaccini. At the invitation of Alain Bernardin, he created the costumes for the girls of the Crazy Horse. He made the woman’s body his future assertation, a philosophy that would distinguish him from his peers.

alaia
Image courtesy of Fondation Azzadine Alaïa | © Jean-Pierre Ronzel

Working with the great furriers, he perfected his technique. The leathers and pelts would become to his fabrics, mastered even more so than chiffon. A collection of studded, cinched leathers was turned down by Charles Jourdain, but paradoxically, this collection was the seed that would grow and bloom into the Alaïa phenomenon. The pioneers of the fashion world swore by him. From head to toe, from dawn until dusk, it is by Alaïa that they wanted to be dressed. He was invited to New York where he was universally acclaimed. The designer Thierry Mugler with whom Azzedine shared a strong friendship further encouraged him. Prosper Assouline and Andrée Putman accompanied him in his development. Gilles Bensimon and Claude Perdriel, caring and understanding friends, are amongst those who assisted him in the revelation of his artistic expression. Azzedine had become Alaïa.

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Image courtesy of Fondation Azzadine Alaïa | © Ilvo Gallo

Beneath the great glass roof of the gallery, in the very space where the couturier habitually invited friends and members of the press to the presentations of his coveted collections, at the very heart of his posthumous foundation where he hoped that the exhibitions would bring together as many people as possible from all walks of life to meet and exchange ideas, “Alaïa avant Alaïa” shares rare accounts, delicate stories, and archive documents. Dresses from the past, born from these three seminal decades, alongside more recent creations inspired by his eternal subjects, reveal a gallery of portraits of those people who, certain of his great and unique talent, helped, guided, and supported him in the growth and development of his art.

more. www.fondationazzedinealaia.org

alaia
Image courtesy of Fondation Azzadine Alaïa | © Stéphane Aït Ouarab
alaia
Image courtesy of Fondation Azzadine Alaïa | © Stéphane Aït Ouarab

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