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Remembering Fashion Collector Azzedine Alaïa

In memory of Azzedine Alaïa (26 February 1935–18 November 2017).

Olivier Saillard chose iconic sculptural couture garments of Alaïa and Balenciaga for the show ‘Collector Azzedine Alaïa - Alaïa and Balenciaga – Sculptors of Form’ at the Association of Azzedine Alaïa, 18 rue de la Verrerie, 75004 Paris.

5 Février 2020 - 17:10

Alaïa at the right of Balenciaga © Stéphane Aït Ouarab
Alaïa at the right of Balenciaga © Stéphane Aït Ouarab

Azzedine Alaïa and Cristobal Balenciaga

Cristobal Balenciaga, the legendary Spanish master of haute couture, closed his couture house at 10 Avenue George V end May, 1968.The couturier could not come to terms with ready-to-wear and the consequent lowering of couture standards. Balenciaga retired and returned to the Basque country in Spain.

Balenciaga’s faithful adjoint director Mademoiselle Renée sought to entrust the collection of remaining garments and precious fabrics to somebody who would appreciate their historical value. She heard about the talent of Azzedine Alaïa and invited him to alter the clothes for couture clients. He refused to change these wonderful architectural cuts and destroy the exquisitely tailoring. Instead Alaïa brought the precious garments home, wrapped in silk paper, to preserve them for his future collection which would also include Grès, Vionnet and Schiaparelli.

Azzedine Alaïa and Balenciaga, Alaïa's creation is at the left facing us © Stéphane Aït Ouarab
Azzedine Alaïa and Balenciaga, Alaïa's creation is at the left facing us © Stéphane Aït Ouarab

Shortly before his unexpected death, Alaïa talks about his admiration for Balenciaga's oeuvre

Shortly before his death in November 2017, Azzedine Alaïa, now master couturier himself, evoked his fashion collection, stressing his appreciation of Cristobal Balenciaga’s great talent. Again his close entourage, Italian fashion connoisseur Carla Sozzani, fashion historian Olivier Saillard and his own long-time partner, German painter Christophe von Wehye listened closely.

After Alaïa was buried in November, 2017 in his beloved Tunisia, the three decided to establish the Azzedine Alaïa Association to ensure the continuation of Alaïa’s fashion legacy. A few months before his own death, couturier Hubert de Givenchy, who had attended to former couture clients of Balenciaga, besides being a great admirer of Alaïa’s couture, suggested that an exhibition of the sculptural oeuvre of both couturiers would be a fitting memorial to two great couturiers.

A row of Alaïa and Balenciaga creations © Stéphane Aït Ouarab
A row of Alaïa and Balenciaga creations © Stéphane Aït Ouarab

French fashion historian Olivier Saillard prepares the show

After combing through Alaïa’s extensive collection of Cristobal Balenciaga garments, Olivier Saillard chose around 80 garments from both couturiers to be displayed at 18 rue de la Verrerie until June 28, 2020. Alaïa himself studied sculpture in Tunisia, before turning to fine-tailoring to help his sister reproduce chic Parisian fashion for rich local clients. Both made their way to Paris to work at the recommendation of their faithful, rich Tunisian clients with Parisian contacts.

Alaïa and Balenciaga favored the same sober use of dark colors, including sumptuous blacks, unusual fabrics and balance of volumes. They explored the use of flowing ball-gowns, architectural tailoring of costumes and coats, without revealing intricate tailoring. Lace and dramatic flouncing, together with the use of bold reds united the approach of both couturiers in their work.

Comparing their similar approach to constructing garments, it is evident that Alaïa never copies Cristobal Balenciaga but that he is inspired by the couture master. Alaïa combined architectural volumes and daring cuts with a personal touch and modern approach, making use of contemporary innovations in fabrics and techniques.

Association Azzedine Alaïa
The Association Azzedine Alaïa is open to the public
everyday from 11 until 19 pm.
in the courtyard of 18 Rue de la Verrerie, 75004 Paris.
The book-shop is also open at the same time.
It costs 5 Euros to enter the show completed with a video film about Alaïa's life.
The public is free to enter the book-shop where there is a plethora of illustrated books about Azzedine Alaïa which one can look through and buy.

Portrait Azzedine Alaïa
  • Portrait Azzedine Alaïa
  • Alaia-Balenciaga
  • Alaïa - Balenciaga
  • Alaia-Balenciaga
  • Alaia -Balenciaga

Kunang Helmi-Picard
Fatma Kunang Helmi was born in Yogjakarta, Indonesia. Education in Switzerland, Australia and... En savoir plus sur cet auteur

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