Azzedine Alaia’s place in the design hall of fame is guaranteed - his signature being the second skin that he crates when challenging the boundaries of flesh and fabric.
Alaia was born in Tunisia in the 1940s to wheat farming parents. A French friend of his mother’s fed Alaia’s instinctive creativity with copies of Vogue and lied about his age to get him into the local Ecole des Beaux-Arts to study sculpture - a discipline in which he didn’t excel, but that he would put to good use in the future. After spotting an ad for a vacancy at a dressmaker’s, Alaia’s sister taught him to sew and he started making copies of couture dresses for neighbours.
Soon afterwards, he went to Paris to work for Christian Dior, but managed only five days of sewing labels before being fired. Alaia moved to Guy Laroche, where for two seasons he learned his craft while earning his keep as housekeeper to the Marquise de Mazan. In 1960, the Blegiers family snapped up Alaia, and for the next five years he was both housekeeper and dressmaker to the Countess and her friends, mixing with glamorous Paris society; a clientele that followed him when he started out on his own.
His first pret-a-porter collection for Charles Jourdan in the 1970s was not well received, but eventually fashion editors tuned into Alaia’s modern elegance - something that would eventually come to define body conscious aesthetics a decade later. Worldwide success followed with exhibitions, awards, supermodel disciples and the power to command an audience outside of the catwalk schedule: Alaia shows when he wants, regardless of the round of timetabled international fashion weeks, and editors never miss it.
In 2000, Alaia joined forces with the Prada group. The same year, a solo exhibition at the New York Guggenheim confirmed his status as a major influence that goes beyond fashion. Alaia still designs, and is based in Paris.
His designs were generally made from black or dark solid colours, and his dresses were tight, showing off every curve. Many feature a deeply scooped back.
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