Azzedine Alaïa

Azzedine Alaïa biography

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Born: Tunis, Tunisia, 1940

Son of a wheat farmer, Azzedine Alaia began his love of fashion and couture through his fashionable and glamorous twin sister. Borrowing Vogues from a French family friend his interest and creativity grew, which directed him onto the École des Beaux-Arts in Tunis. Lying about his age, Alaïa studied sculpture, leaving him with a valuable knowledge and perspective of the human form, shape and silhouette.

After working as a dressmaker’s assistant, at 18 Alaïa travelled to Paris and secured a succession of jobs including five days work at Christian Dior, two seasons at Guy Laroche and followed on to work for Thierry Mugler. For years he was known as one of the best kept secrets in Paris, his number covertly passed between the city’s elite.

By the early eighties, Alaïa was encouraged by Mugler to launch his own collection. Commissioned by Charles Jourdon his collection was released and in 81 he was crowned the ‘King of Cling’. With his reinvention of body consciousness when everyone else was focussing on frills, he used flexible textures. When Andree Putman was wearing an Alaïa leather coat, a Bergdorf Goodman buyer stopped her in the street to ask where it was from. This led to his designs being sold in New York and in Beverly Hills. Voted best designer of the year and best collection of the year in 1984 at the Oscars de la Mode, he was memorably carried on stage by grace Jones. He was supported by Melka Treanton of Depeche Mode and Nicole Crassar of French Elle in their Editorials, helping his career escalate.

After the death of his sister in the mid nineties, Alaïa near disappeared from fashion, only working for a small number of private clients and seeing commercial success on his ready-to-wear lines. In 2000 he signed a partnership with the Prada Group which saw him an impressive return. In July 2007 he bought back his house and brand name from the Prada group, except the control of his footwear and leather goods division.

Instrumental in the promotion of the supermodels, he met and employed a 16 year old Naomi Campbell on her first day as a model in Paris. Not conforming to the conventional season timetables his collections are always when he thinks they are ready. Dressing Tina Turner, Grace Kelly, Paloma Picasso, Greta Garbo and Madonna , Azzedine Alaïa has his own aesthetic, preferring to focus on the actual clothes, not on the latest ‘it’ product.

In 2011, the brand celebrated its 30th anniversary, reflecting on Alaïa’s enduring legacy and his unwavering commitment to creating garments that celebrate the female form. In 2017, the Alaïa Foundation was established, preserving the designer’s archives and promoting his artistic legacy. Tragically, Azzedine Alaïa passed away in 2017, leaving behind a remarkable legacy and a brand that continues to honour his vision under the guidance of his close associates.

Azzedine Alaïa Biography


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Written by Saxony Dudbridge

Saxony Dudbridge was one of the first contributors to the Catwalk Yourself project, Saxony studies International Fashion Marketing and she is responsible for our great History and Designers Biographies sections.

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