Tunisian born fashion designer Azzedine Alaia was born in February 26, 1940. The fashion industry respects Alaia for his brutally honest approach and not bowing to the tight and demanding schedules of the fashion industry’s timetable and creating masterpieces in his own time according to his whims and fancies.
Passionate for art from a very young age, Azzedine studied sculpture at Ecole des Beaux – Arts where he where he gained valuable insights about human form. He relocated to Paris upon graduation to work as an apprentice for the Thierry Mugler, Christian Dior and Guy Laroche; some of the biggest stars of the fashion industry back in the days. In the late seventies, Alaia used his small apartment to open his first atelier where he designed gowns for fashion savvy elites like Greta Garbo and Marie Helene de Rothschild. He rose to fame in 1980 with his first collection of ready to wear outfits which led to the induction of his collection into high-end retail store Bergdorf Goodman. He also opened his first standalone store in 1980. Azzedine Alaia was voted the Best Designer of the Year and Best Collection of the Year in 1984 by the French Ministry of Culture. From strength to strength Alaia’s career grew which was quite apparent from the covers of influential fashion magazines displaying his work. The Groninger Museum of Netherlands honored Alaia with a solo exhibition in 1998. The exhibition later made its way to the Guggenheim Museum of New York in 2000 which was hosted by Jim Cook and Mark Wilson.
In the mid eighties, Alaia introduced the one of its kind, stretchable body con silhouette which accentuated the bust and cinched the waists. But with the death of his beloved sister in the mid nineties, Azzedine virtually disappeared from the fashion scene only catering to devoted clientele from his Marais boutique. With his growing popularity, Prada partnered with Alaia in 2000 but he stayed true to the vision of his eponymous fashion house. In July 2007, he bought Prada out of his ready to wear line leaving them in charge only of his footwear collection. That same year, percentage of the business was bought by Richemont Luxury Group.
In 2008, the brutally outspoken Alaia turned heads in the industry after he claimed to turn down the Legion de’Honneur medal. The spring season of 2011 marked the famously shy yet infamously independent designer’s return to the runway after a semi-permanent sabbatical of almost seven years. The event was attended by the infamous Donatella Versace and Sophia Coppola who gave him a standing ovation. After almost 20 years, Alaia announced the opening of his Paris store in March 2013 but rumors were that he was going to open a shopping destination in a discreet area.
Alaia’s name was also part of a controversy when he verbally bashed Vogue’s Anna Wintour in an interview with the GROUND Social & Magazine by saying that she may run the business very well but not so much when it came to the fashion part for he did not believe in her tastes and what she wore. He also lashed on Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel saying that he had never touched a pair of scissors in his life.
The ‘King of Cling’ has gathered a following of rich and famous ladies all around the world from First Lady Carla Bruni to First Lady Michelle Obama; breaking all stereotypes of American first ladies preferring American designers. Lady Gaga, Madonna, Shakira and Carine Roitfeld are also admirers of the French couturier Azzedine Alaia.