Azzedine Alaïa, 82, considered one of the most uncompromising and influential designers of the past 40 years, has died of a heart attack in Paris.
Alaïa is remembered equally for both his brilliant designs as well as a nearly complete rejection of the traditional fashion system.
His creations have been worn by some of the most famous and fashionable women of the 21st Century, and his design ethic was based around the female form itself. He was known widely as the King of Cling because of his tight adherence to the body.
Alaïa believed that the artificial deadlines imposed by the commercial cycle had corrupted the creativity that should be at the heart of the art form of fashion design. He often ignored set show calenders. Instead he had openings and presentations when he felt the new collection was ready, and to hell with the scheduling demands of retailers and fashion press.
As a result he was surrounded by supporters and a system that admired and agreed with his approach. Perhaps mirroring a social realization that inspiration is more valuable mass production in an age of globalized machine process, he became a stand for the human value of creativity. Of striving to perfect an individual aesthetic, uncompromised by the pressure to conform to production deadlines..
His kitchen, became a bit of a modern Salon, a place that attracted lunch and dinner klatches of the famous, the gifted, the intellectuals and the merely wealthy. He would often cook personally for guests like Julian Schnable (or alternatively, the Kardashians) whilst engaging in passionate discussion to all hours of the night.
One of the designers close young friends, told FashionWeek that “Fashion is Dead, There is no reason to model anymore”
The New York Times said of him that “He dedicated his life to the belief that fashion was more than just garments, but rather an element in the empowerment of women and the broader cultural conversation.”
Born in Tunisia, Alaïa moved to Paris in 1957 to work with Christian Dior, living in the “chambre de bonne” of Comtesse Nicole de Blégiers, (paying rent by making her clothes and babysitting). He quickly became the young darling of French society; his clients included Rothschilds. By 1979 he opened his own House.
A year later he opened his first collection, which earned him the name “the king of cling”
Though his aesthetic fell out of fashion in the 1990s, Mr. Alaïa simply soldiered on throught the grunge decade, and by 2000, support and acclaim returned.
He created work for the ballet and the opera, and began holding art exhibitions in 2004 in his showroom (regular programming began in 2015 with an exhibition by the Syrian poet Adonis). When he died, he was planning a bookstore.
He had become the equivalent of a national treasure.