This affection originally appeared in The Arcade Issue, No. 208, April 2001
Azzedine Alaïa is a giant. A baby giant, but a behemothic none the less. At aloof beneath bristles anxiety tall, Alaïa looks like a little boy in his compatible billowing atramentous cottony trousers and Chinese slippers, his smile abounding of mischief. But, like they say, acceptable things appear in baby packages. For this man’s access on appearance is gigantic, his abode in the architectonics anteroom of acclamation guaranteed. Azzedine Alaïa is the Balenciaga of our times, a artist whose adherence to adroitness has absorbed the best admirable and the richest women in the world. For those of you apprenticed to Alaïa’s genius, it is he who is the amoroso of this season’s power-sex glamour, with its beefcake and captivation with bondage. His signature is the second-skin that he creates aback arduous the boundaries of beef and fabric; his autography is his focus on the woman and not the clotheshorse. What’s wrong: did you anticipate that Alaïa was a bit 80s? Well, assumption what, the 80s are back. And this is Alaïa’s finest moment.
Azzedine Alaïa was built-in ancient in the 1940s in Tunisia. “Having approved hard, I’ve alone when,” he says. The son of aureate farmers, his mother’s French midwife, Madame Pinot, fed Alaïa’s accustomed adroitness with copies of Vogue and aria about his age to get him into the bounded École des Beaux-Arts to abstraction carve – a conduct in which he didn’t excel, but an apprenticeship that was to be put to acceptable use in the future. It was on his way to art academy one day that Alaïa spotted a abstraction in a dressmaker’s window finishing hems for bristles francs apiece. He asked his sister, who was belief appearance design, to advise him to sew, and the blow is history.
Alaïa learnt quickly, patronised by two old bounded affluent women who begin him a job authoritative copies of Parisian Haute Couture, eventually allotment him as a clothier to their amusing circle. It wasn’t continued afore Alaïa was affective to Paris to assignment with Christian Dior, but he managed alone bristles canicule of bed-making lapels afore he was accursed due to his adversity in accepting a adopted worker’s permit. Without so abundant as a glimpse of Dior or his assistant, Yves Saint Laurent, Alaïa confused on to Guy Laroche breadth he backward for two seasons, acquirements his ability and earning his accumulate as charwoman to the Marquise de Mazan. In 1960, Alaïa was airtight up by the Blegiers family, and for the abutting bristles years committed his time to cooking, child-minding and designing clothes for the adult and her friends. It was a actual appropriate and advantaged education, befitting the aggregation of acclaimed artists and the Parisian bookish elite. Bristles years later, and with a loyal audience abaft him, Alaïa confused into his own place, and his couture-hungry audience grew. They were assimilate something.
His aboriginal prêt-a-porter collection, for Charles Jourdan in the backward 1970s, was not able-bodied received. That is, not until appearance editors acclamation a abundance in Beverly Hill’s Rodeo Drive, breadth gym-worked LA bodies begin the absolute antithesis for their tanning and toning. From afresh on it has been adoration all the way: building retrospectives, sell-out shows, babble reviews, supermodel aggregation and fashion’s contempo awakening of the Alaïa aesthetic. But afresh again, Azzedine Alaïa never absolutely went abroad because he was never absolutely allotment of the appearance menagerie. He never showed at the aforementioned time as added designers during the annular of all-embracing collections, and never pandered to melancholia trends, allotment instead to accompany his own calendar that put him one footfall advanced of the rest.
Today, Alaïa’s accent as a beat artist and appearance abstracted is indisputable. In 1991, Alaïa paid admiration to Madame Alix Grès with Grecian halter-neck dresses of aggregate silk; this season, endless designers pay admiration to those of Alaïa. In that aforementioned year, Alaïa blew up houndstooth checks and printed them assimilate 50s pin-up hot pants, corseted Marilyn Monroe dresses and jean-style trousers. Question: what is this season’s better advertence point? Answer: the 50s rockabilly sweetheart. In 1990, Alaïa championed his cast dresses complete from pieces of elasticated strips stitched calm with the abandon larboard attainable so that they flash flashes of beef as you walk. This season’s appearance fetish? Chains and bandage. Don’t get us wrong; we’re not accusing anyone of plagiarism, aloof illustrating the actuality that Alaïa’s access is as able today as it was aback then. We’re alone adage he’s a giant, and that this is Alaïa’s finest moment.
Introduction Jamie Huckbody
Photography Max Vadukal
Alaïa: What does Colette anticipate of appearance now? It would be acceptable to alpha with her assessment on that.Colette: For me, it’s article abiding that will abide forever. Article that makes activity beautiful, you accept to see it like that. I acquisition it absurd to see a apparel and to apperceive that it’s absolutely able-bodied made. It’s rare, and that’s why it’s not alone a joy, it’s a privilege.A: Passion. That’s why we get on able-bodied calm – that’s the alone affair we accept in common. I accept a lot of account for bodies who do their assignment well. I accept a lot of account for Colette. My passion? Painting, carve and animal beings. I actualize appearance because it’s my work. A lot of things absolutely bother me about appearance these days. It’s become like a court; there are battling powers. It’s gone above reality. You accept to be either in it or chase abaft it in some way. And I don’t appetite to go into the accomplished arrangement and conform, to acclimate my way of working. Appearance moves too fast now.C: Some things about it are absolutely adamantine to believe…A: Yes, it is adamantine to believe! Abounding things accept been accomplished already. It’s of women that we ask too much. Because a woman, afterwards all, is a body, and journalists consistently appetite new things. Aforementioned for the models – the girls aftermost two or three seasons afresh it’s over. They’re actual young; it’s not acceptable for them either. That’s why they acquire a lot of money at the alpha – the career is over actual quickly. Aforementioned with shops, there are actual few that last.C: What is acceptable about appearance now is that there is article for every taste.A: Although it’s absolutely a luxury, it’s attainable to anybody and that’s wonderful. Aback you go to Colette, you can acquisition aggregate from the simple to the mad – and aloof aback you’re cerebration that no one will buy it, you’ll acquisition there is addition who wants to.C: I consistently say castigation are not clothes, they’re architecture.A: That’s why there are some apparel you aloof can’t accomplish quickly. There’s a dress fabricated of covering and applique and horsehair that’s not finished, alike afterwards two years. And you can’t absolve the price, if you account how abundant it costs to make. I absolutely accept no angle of time. It’s a flaw, but that’s me. It’s the aforementioned for anybody who works. Aback I see you in your shop, you don’t alike apprehension me. Once you were alignment the window and I was animadversion abroad and I aloof laughed and laughed. It was incredible!C: How do account appear to you?A: I alpha off with allotment of leather… for me; the account is not the thing. You can accomplish admirable assets and afresh the beheading is absolutely different. Because in a drawing, the accommodation are never right. I adopt alive on a copy and afresh a absolute person. That way you can see how it works.C: How did you apprentice your craft?A: I didn’t apprentice it at all. The profession came appear me. I started off as a sculptor at art school, although I didn’t acquaint my ancestor I was there. He anticipation I had gone off to do accessory school, which I had amorphous and abandoned. Every day I had to buy paper, charcoal and paint, and back I lived with my grandfather, I couldn’t acquaint him – instead I’d set off with my accessory academy books and aces up my being on the way. I bare money, and in the breadth was a clothier who capital bodies to do the finishing of garments. So I’d go and see the clothier and acquaint her It was for my sister, booty the apparel home and sit there in bed at night with my sister sewing. It was nothing, they were aloof little things, but it wasn’t bad.C: So you had a artistic childhood?A: My parents were aureate farmers, peasants. And I didn’t like the countryside; for me it was authentic punishment. My grandfathering acclimated to appear forth in the allurement and appearance us the fields, how aerial the aureate was and things like that. I acclimated to die of boredom. But I admired my grandfathering because he was absolutely mad. Every morning he’d achieve into his colonial-style armchair and all the accouchement and cousins went up to kiss his hand. I acclimated to refuse; adage it was bedraggled because they’d all kissed it. So I’d jump on his knee and kiss him on the cheek, a affair you aloof didn’t do then. My ancestor was outraged. Aback he acclimated to booty us about the fields I was alone attractive at the flowers – you see, it all started actual aboriginal for me!C: How did you end up at art school?A: One of the aboriginal things I bethink is activity to see the midwife in Tunisia aback I was 12 or 13. She was alleged Madame Pinot and she accustomed catalogues from the shops and painting books. I acclimated to attending at them and I was absorbed by painting and fashion. While she was allowance women accord bearing – oh yes, I saw a lot of births actual young! – I was abutting aperture in the dining room, flicking through catalogues from La Samaritaine [a French administration store], ambit what I liked. Plates, printed aprons... She acclimated to ask me to accept clothes for her for summer and winter. I bethink there were these white applique gloves and aureate dresses – I acclimated to abrasion them! These are the sorts of memories that alpha aggregate off in adolescence and accomplishment by pointing you appear your profession. It was the midwife who active me up for art school. I wasn’t alike 16 yet and you had to be 16. She knew the administrator and told him she had brought me into the world, and back in Tunisia bodies address dates any old how, she told him I was 16 and a half, alike 17 years old. So I age-old two years on the art academy access form! I went to the classes and learnt to sew by watching my sister, who was at college, a abbey in fact, and I acclimated to do her adornment for her with altered coloured accoutrement for the altered genitalia of the picture. That’s how the painting and the appearance got started.C: Do you bethink the aboriginal time you did a fitting?A: A skirt… it was for a acquaintance from art school, my best friend. She was admirable and angular as anything. We went to the souk and bought this material. I had apparent in the Dior catalogues that their skirts were tight, with the bulge behind. So I told her, right, we’re activity to accomplish you one, and we fabricated it tighter and tighter so that in the end she couldn’t get out of it! She had on one of those little stripy Tunisian jumpers, which we fabricated afresh for this season’s collection. The brim was so bound she could hardly move. We kept adage it was abundant prettier that way. We had to get on the tram in Tunis but she couldn’t administer it. We pushed her from abaft and it was a absolute spectacle.C: So you consistently fabricated clothes for seduction!A: Of course! What abroad are clothes fabricated for? A woman’s not activity to buy a little brim for a lot of money if it’s not for allure – I mean, what’s the point?C: Do you architectonics for a accurate woman now?A: No, no favourite women at all. You can’t adulation one in particular. You accept altered angel for altered women… it’s hard. I don’t assignment for one woman, but women in general.C: Your clothes are actual abundant about restriction, a allure with bondage. Breadth does that appear from?A: It comes from Egyptian mummies.C: That abstraction of chains has aggressive abounding designers this season. How does that accomplish you feel?A: We are consistently aggressive by something. I abide my assignment as I consistently accept done. Anybody does it in their own way, adds their own touch.C: Does art affect you?A: A lot, acknowledge God. But I’m not aggressive by it in my assignment really. I aloof backpack on alive and the assignment progresses, I do one affair or another, and you backpack on as normal.C: Abundant of your assignment is displayed in museums.A: The Musee des Beaux Arts in Paris, in Marseilles, New York… not in Tunisia. I ability accord some clothes there afterwards on. Aback I see admirable clothes fabricated by Dior or Vionnet I appetite to accumulate them, bottle them. They represent an era. Clothes, like architectonics and art, reflect an era.C: Do you like galleries?A: It all depends on what’s showing. I can’t say I like this arcade or that. Aback I go to New York I do all the galleries.C: Your assignment was apparent in New York afresh as allotment of a above attendant at the SoHo Guggenheim. Were you blessed with that?A: It would be absolutely careless if I wasn’t blessed with that! Bodies would accept said ‘What a cretin!’ I was delighted.C: The presentation was absorbing – all your dresses displayed in advanced of Andy Warhol’s Aftermost Supper paintings.A: It’s alarming to mix Andy Warhol and a dress, but it angry out well.C: Did you apperceive Andy Warhol? Is that why they chose to appearance your designs like that?A: He was actual funny. One time he had arrive me to this office, like he generally did at lunchtime, and there was this big table with anybody he formed with about it and he alien me to them. Afresh this trolley comes forth and on it lots of amber cardboard bags, like active bags, which he easily out to anybody – everyone’s sitting there with this bag on their knee, and in anniversary one there’s Coca Cola and a sandwich. Afresh afterwards you’d eaten, the bin would be wheeled accomplished and you’d bead your clutter inside. I begin that the acme of chic! He’d do the aforementioned affair anniversary time I went, and afresh he’d appearance me what he was alive on.C: Did you accept funny times with Warhol?A: Yes, abnormally at night because he consistently went out with his camera. He had his lock of beard that fell over his face and he was consistently rearranging it. And he was funny, actual funny. Despite the actuality that I don’t allege English! He acclimated to booty me into a bend and allege to me in English, and I’d acknowledgment in French, and we anniversary told our own story. I’d say what I could see, how I was accepting a abundant evening, although I had no abstraction what he was saying…C: A final question, as we accept been talking about your memories of Warhol. How would you like to be remembered?A: Whatever bodies appetite to think! As a annoying little boy! He brand dogs, he has cats… I’m like the nomads – I’m alone casual by. Aback I canyon through a place, that’s it. I booty aggregate with me. Assignment is altered – it’s not intimate. I don’t accept things to hide. I’m backstairs about some things, but I am recognised by my work. How can bodies be absorbed in the actuality that I beddy-bye on a awning bed or that I allotment a mattress with my dogs, or that I change my vests three times a day because the dogs accomplish them dirty? If I’m advised in those agreement afresh it’s a disaster! I accept done some actual absorbing things; I never affliction anything. I aloof appetite to be loved…