“Paris Fashion Week ended days ago. Why are you still here?” I asked a friend who’s a buying assistant for a department store in New York.
He takes a sip of his coffee and tells me: “You know it doesn’t officially end until Monsieur Alaïa shows.”
I knew this. Azzedine Alaïa was notorious for presenting his collection weeks after the official schedule, a personal pledge of taking his time and not succumbing to the rapid and unrealistic turnover of the fashion cycle. Buyers, editors, stylists, and other industry players would hang around or even fly back to Paris to see his show. But not this year. Mid-November was met not with a sleek envelope containing an invite to his atelier in Rue de Moussy but with news of his passing.
Azzedine Alaïa was a prominent figure in the fashion industry who dressed icons like Naomi Campbell, Grace Jones, Janet Jackson, and millions of women looking to tap into their feminine power. However, he was discreet and rarely produced promotional campaigns. The Tunisian-born designer was known for his structural, body-hugging pieces and a very hands-on approach to his label. He fitted clients himself, visited boutiques to talk to customers, and worked closely with his design team composed of him and two assistants.
With his adamant approach of doing away with all the industry protocol, it’s easy to identify him as a rebel. Except he wasn’t. To be a rebel is to be an outsider and Azzedine Alaïa was without a doubt the most respected designer the century has seen. He was respected by other designers, revered by the editors we look up to, and loved by the women he empowered through his clothing.
It’s interesting how the fashion industry will carry on his legacy. Will we be reminded of his firm conviction that great pieces take time and close attention or will brands continue to respond to mass market demands, ever so rapidly spiraling into a pointless frenzy and lukewarm design ideas?